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Poetry by Youssef Helmi


Retelling, but as a Love Poem

‘Father and Son’ by Paulo Coehlo

It was you I hoped to see
piece me back together when
I fell, humpty-dumpty,
into a hundred fractions, like the
shattered kaleidoscope of a man
who’s spent his entire life in a
room without windows,
flesh paling to
porcelain and bones
brittle like a menagerie,
wondering how to even ask
for just a glance of
but when you opened
the door and
all the light flooded in,
I looked away, hid my
eyes in shame–

and when you picked up the
first pieces of me
it was a panoptic warmth, each
of your fingers a kiln
slowly melting and
reshaping what had been broken
long before I fell,
and when you paused to
ask Does it hurt?
I wanted to cry It has
for longer than I want you to know

instead I watched delicate fingers
trace edges of fragments before
sliding pieces into place, like
there was a map
drawn into the creases of
my skin, a chart
with dotted line leading
shard after shard to
buried treasure, and you
the cartographer,
created a perfect facsimile of
what should be there,

and when you finished
restoring the atlas of
my self, you
carried me out, careful
to lock the door,
and set me on a bed in
a room of glass panes,
you wrapped me as
a parcel in a sheet of
white twill, you
held me close to
your rising and falling
breast, you stayed until I
finally slept, you
promised in my ear
I won’t let you break yourself again.


Youssef Helmi is an American writer and poet of Egyptian descent at Florida State University where he studies Creative Writing, Political Science, Arabic, and French. His fiction and poetry have been featured in Cleaver Magazine, Scribendi Magazine, the Rappahannock Review, Rigorous Magazine, the Marathon Literary Review, and forthcoming in Track//Four Journal. In school, he is currently focusing on a thesis in the form of a chapbook of ekphrastic poetry. When not writing, he stress drinks flavored lattes, binge-watches seasonal anime, and muses over the musical merits of death metal.

Be sure to check out our exclusive interview with Youssef over on the Orson’s Publishing blog.