My phantom heart wants you to know

That it stopped beating years ago

No pulsating rhythm

No vibrating anthem

Its chambers now echo

With sighs and cries

And howls and screams

What beat does the heart keep

When the cymbals crash

It throbs instead

It quivers instead

My phantom heart wants you to know

That it lost its rhythm years ago

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Artwork by Mohammad Fayaz

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Drifting in and out of the corridors of the old Lorraine Motel

I saw myself standing on the balcony

Where Dr King drew his last breath

Looking in the distance

Searching for what hates us

For what fears our light so much

It resolves to extinguish us

Before we set it all on fire

The motel is no longer but its facade still remains

Its memory preserved

With a museum that rises to tell the stories

Of tired and broken beautiful bodies of color

And a miraculous spirit that refuses to surrender

I saw myself when I recognized

That ships from Africa carried Muslims…

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California Poppies at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. Pic from

If you should know anything about me, please know that I am a Californian.

If there is any song to sing, any song of myself, I sing California.

Here is California. Everywhere else is there. Please understand and follow along.

I am the first official Californian in my family. I was conceived and created here. The first thing that became of me, at the most basic cellular level, that dramatic dance of sperm meeting egg, all happened here. That magical spark igniting the fire that delicately prepared me for my existence. That happened here.

My two older siblings cannot claim this. My sister was born in Egypt and though my brother was conveniently born in the state of California, my mother was pregnant with him when the family immigrated from Egypt. I have given myself the freedom to use this detail to declassify my brother as not being “officially” Californian. …

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Essay number 5 is inspired by how depleted I’ve been feeling lately. It is week 10 of the weekly essay challenge, and so here I am, having only completed half of the essays so far. Instead of focusing on my writing practice, I’ve been trying to show up for all the people who demand way too much of me. The universe keeps giving me tests. Some days I pass, some days I fail.

How do we take care of ourselves while also taking care of others? What happens when they need you to show up for them even when it comes at a high cost to you? …

Essay 4 of the #52essays2017 challenge. I’m a little behind. But I will catch up.

This piece first appeared as an oral story shared at a storytelling show in Los Angeles on 2.16.17. Check out for future shows.

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On stage at the Lyric Hyperion Theater in Silver Lake for Disoriented Comedy’s Family Reunion Storytelling Show (“Queers of Faith” edition) in Los Angeles, California, 2.16.17.

This is a new variation of my coming out story.

I feel like I’ve shared this story so many goddamn times and yet somehow I always find a new reason and a new way to tell it.

I usually share my coming out story in the present tense, from my perspective as it was happening in the moment. But lately, as I have moved farther along in my life, that defining experience now feels like I can see it through a telescope in reverse. It feels very far away. …

For week 3 of the #52essays2017 challenge, I’m choosing to re-post this letter that I wrote for KCET, LA’s local public media station. It was published on January 20th to coincide with the inauguration of #NotMyPresident.

Dear members of the new administration,

This American wants you to know that I will not put up with your shenanigans.

This gay Arab American Muslim man wants you to know that I will not be categorized nor classified nor put on any list to be watched by you. My power cannot and will not be threatened by the likes of you.

This queer artist of color wants you to know that LGBTQ artists will not be silent. For every law that you try to repeal, laws which we have fought and died for, laws that protect our rights, you can be certain that we will respond and we will make noise. For every new law that you try to pass down, laws that try to infringe and take away rights that we have, you can be certain that we will respond and we will make noise. …

Week 2 of the #52essays2017 challenge. This is the first in a series of essays that will explore my relationship to Egypt, my mother’s homeland, and my own African-ness and Arab-ness.

Watch this video by Alsarah & the Nubatones: “3roos Elneel

When Alsarah sings, I think of family. Her voice reminds me of the past and takes me to a beautiful sun-drenched Saturday in June with older cousins and aunties and uncles visiting from Egypt. When they would call after me and yell my name and declare it boldly into the summer sky. …

This is the first entry in a weekly writing challenge. One essay per week in 2017.

Do you write much? I haven’t written much of anything lately. The last year was a tough one. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in thinking that. 2016 will forever be the year of ‘WTF.’

It’s a New Year, people. Let’s make 2017 count.

To get back in the flow of writing…

So I can feel comfortable identifying as a writer again…

Without looking over my shoulder for the writer police to arrest me for not renewing my license to write…

I am taking on the #52essays2017 challenge, started by the relentless and talented Vanessa Mártir. …

Ramy El-Etreby

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