“The Scent Censes” & “Elegy With Precious Oil” by Majda Gama

4 February, 2024
Reading Time :2 minutes

These two poems are from The Call of Paradise (Two Sylvias Press). The speaker of Majda Gama’s The Call of Paradise is a “[b]ride of many cities, daughtered by the East & mothered by the West,” with poems placed in Beirut and punk L.A., Bab Makkah, the Al-Ain Oasis, and “in the red, backhoed dirt of Virginia,” the Red Sea and “the summer / Shoreline in America,” visible and invisible, her hair both black and neon pink, occupying the edge but “unable to submerge.” Even the poems’ forms, at times, feature parenthetical weavings, and ghazal-like shifts and dualities. The result of this fluid positionality is nuanced, hushed witness, oud-scented ritual, and deep artfulness. The speaker may not arrive in paradise, but at the termination of this beautiful sequence of poems, she hears its call. —Diane Seuss, Contest Judge, and author of frank: sonnets



Majda Gama

The Scent Censes

Sometimes I think about your sheets
wrapped around me in a cold London
flat, the sandalwood scent that remained
as weight after my body left, and how
you preferred this invisible body.

Dream of dunes, of silk sand.
I suspect in all your dreams
I walked a path that left footsteps
on the finest desert carpet
where a tree of agar wood breathed
as it harbored a transiting hoopoe.

In every Persian Gulf home
a brazier of gilt or gold.
The dorment scent I awaken
on a bed of coal, now dresses
my body in the pure smoke
of new amber.


The Call of Paradise is published by Two Sylvias Press.


elegy with precious oil majda gama

Majda Gama is the author of the chapbook The Call of Paradise, selected by Diane Seuss as winner of the 2022 Two Sylvias chapbook prize. Poems have recently appeared in The Adroit Journal, Four Way Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Night Heron Barks, POETRY, and We Call to the Eye & the Night (Persea, 2023) an anthology of love poems by poets of Arab-Anglophone poets, and are forthcoming from Ploughshares and Prairie Schooner. Her poems have been nominated for Best New Poets, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize and her debut manuscript was a finalist for the 2020 New Issues Poetry Prize. Born in Beirut, Majda was raised in Saudi Arabia and the United States and is now based in the DC suburbs where she has roots in the underground music scene. During the pandemic she began tending to a Virginia native plant garden that was certified as a home wildlife sanctuary by the Audubon Society. Majda currently co-hosts and programs the Café Muse literary salon sponsored by The Word Works.

Arab poetBeirutJeddahmulticulturalmultilingualpoetSaudi Arabia

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