Dear Dad

Nada Faris
4 min readApr 5, 2023

This is an edited version of the spoken word poem first performed at Gulf University for Science and Technology’s “Poetry Night,” December 2015.

Poets and The English Club’s organizers of GUST’s Poetry Night, December 2016

Dear Dad¹
I would apologize for acting strange
or, god forbid, like a poet
but you only have yourself to blame for that
and the fact that I’m entertaining an audience
spilling my guts and family secrets
see you were always my favorite storyteller
— even when I was your punchline

Jokes aside,
I still remember every barbecue dinner in the desert
when you gathered my aunts and cousins
to tell them about the time you got so mad
you just didn’t want to deal with me anymore
so you told someone to take me out of your car

That was during the invasion
of Kuwait by Iraq
you said it to an enemy soldier
and I was four years old

If it wasn’t for my mother
who looked you in the eyes and cried “Faris!”
I wouldn’t be here right now
I’d be — how is it you end your skit?
— oh, that’s right: “An Iraqi”

Still, I laughed
every single time you recounted this episode
— He! He! He! — along with everybody else.
So now I’m a little puzzled
by your expectation for me to win an award
for being the most conventional daughter of the year

It was tough being your child,
sometimes. I had a special name for you
when your veins throbbed
Bruce Banner’s alter ego:
Dad Smash

I never knew when or why
the transformation would happen
but a bruise, a cut, a broken limb later
you were my Bruce Banner again — I mean
“my father” — buying me ice cream
or driving my brothers and I to the arcades
giving us money and letting us all win

I swallowed rage as a child
punching my cupboard so hard
so I can learn how to carve
my love in the world
like you

But my fist
was so soft, so weak
I could never indent the surface
and leave a piece of me on that cupboard
right next to yours

So I turned away
and sliced my self-esteem on my own accord
— one blood vessel at a time — until
the thunder crackling in the pit of my stomach
turned to a low rumble
and bubbles of unbearable sorrow
suddenly bulged out of my body
and waddled with my shadow
wherever I walked

I never learned
to Dad Smash at all

I picked up
another superpower
rhyming in front of an audience

Because unlike you
I don’t throw tables at anyone
I throw pebbles
as puns

People wonder
where my tag line comes from
I write to get back at people

Well daddy,
it’s from you
because if I didn’t,
I too might tell an enemy soldier
to take away my four-year-old daughter
during an occupation,
just to “unburden me”

I confine my anger in a two-dimensional structure
and live just like Pinocchio had lived
before he got his miracle

My sorrow and joy
assume veracity only on the surface of a text.
I now flex my human organs
on paper and on Wordpress

In real life though,
I walk clumsily on wooden legs

But father
I’m not complaining
and this poem is not about a grudge
but about gratitude
with a caveat

Because of you
I’m blessed and even privileged
but how many people end up majoring
in English literature in college, or
visiting psychologists?

How many are currently able
to retrace their fables
with Freud and co. pencils?

And how many laymen
end up learning
that mental illness is not a weakness
or a reason to hate a person
that it’s part and parcel
of the human condition

So unless schools,
cultural centers,
and other institutions
spread the word
and make the topic visible
by including it in curriculums
equipping parents and their offspring
with instruments of knowledge
and practical experience
to help them confront it
and pushing states to address it,
there will be other people
who get back at parents²
and parents who abuse their own children
and it won’t be witty and awesome
like in my poems

So thank you, father
you did all that you could
you didn’t know any better
but that’s not your fault
you always had our best interest in heart
until the anger took over

So thank you
a thousand times for everything, daddy
including my bipolar.

This poem was performed at the New English School, January 2017.


[1] For more context on this poem, please read: Why I Write.

[2] When I began performing spoken word poems, I had a tagline: I write to get back at people. Back then, I wrote from a place of pain. In fact, in 2013, The British Council’s Blog (Theatre and Dance) did a feature on me after I performed at Shubbak Festival in London and used my tagline as the title (read it: here).

The first time I performed this piece in public was at Gulf University for Science and Technology’s “Poetry Night” in December 2015, but since then, I’ve performed it at mental health events and various schools and universities.

The demonization and vilifying of people who struggle with mental illness is unfortunately ubiquitous online and offline, both local and global, so I think it’s important to educate people in Kuwait about the topic from a more compassionate angle, since the more we address the mental health spectrum and give words to actions, thoughts, and feelings, the kinder we could be in the ways we relate to others who are different from us (“different,” being the key term).

My father holding a toy sewing machine



Nada Faris

Kuwaiti writer interested in language, literature, identity, community, and creativity. Sharing notes from my 10-year journey.