nakba ’73

palestinian refugee, “‘baq’a camp in jordan, 1967 (photography by munir nasr, courtesy of unrwa).

today is not a poem 
woke up feeling guilty for resting my head on the pillow
as gaza laid her children to rest 

i remember their faces 
their names scattered in a sea of stars and survivors
they came to me in my sleep last night 

pleading: 
we are hurting 
we are afraid
we are tired 

today is not a holiday
donned my mother’s taub and keffiyeh on my shoulders
as haifa and ‘akkā wrapped white linen 
around the limbs of lynched bodies 

to contain what’s left in the lasting rupture
between flesh and blood,
still warm 

between occupied and occupier 
between past and present 
or rather, 
between what was and what has become 

today is not a celebration
spoke with my uncle
prayed for his safety before wishing him eid mubarak

told me that death came knocking 
but fled as soon as it arrived 

he reminded me of memories we once shared
as if nostalgia can somehow erase the goodbyes in his voice

i wanted to say i love you
but couldn’t find the words
instead, i said:

i miss you amu
please take care amu
we will be reunited again someday inshallah  
amu 

what’s the equivalent translation of love 
for a people that have a long-lasting affair
with poets and hopeless romantics
anyway?

i read somewhere once 
that when a body carries a trauma
not yet metabolized 
it learns that to love bares an attachment
not ready for loss 

catches on the tongue
slicing it in half 
twisted,
i’m sorry for not being better when i had the chance 

today is not a feast 
ate kahk that tasted bitter
as our fingertips
curious and penetrating,
scrolled through our news feeds

sprinkled powdered sugar
until it resembled the tops of snow-capped mountains 
purged guilt and bile and confessions of an exiled mind

digesting the pleasure of sweetness
is a privilege my body cannot seem to bear 

today is not a ceasefire 
it is a liberation movement, uninterrupted 
sheikh jarrah was once every city’s worst nightmare

resistance is greater than this iron fist 
it also looks like jerusalem 
she was dancing colours and patterns 
children twirling in laughter and joyful bliss
all around her

a defiant hum 
something like a hopeful melody 
sung
from the tops of the minaret speakers
of al aqsa:

we are an uprising, 
multiplied 

we are an exodus, 
returning 

we are an ode to the people, 
singular and united

we will never leave
we are here to stay
we are here
we are
we. are. 

lh 
may 2021

daughters of palestine’s diaspora

baba standing in front of dome of the rock in jerusalem, circa 1985.

map my story on my back
orient the sails to the east
disembark halfway between the origin points of here and there
lest i drown in the void of never enough

we are the children born from olives trees
into exile
we swim to stay afloat
along streams and empires

daughters of palestine’s diaspora
combust to ignite the path of a road less travelled
leave a trail between checkpoints
dig graves with our searchign fingertips
only to find bodies colonized by broken promises

i repatch the earth with hopes and memories
of my ancestors
collect their bones and bury them
into the flaming soil of an undying legacy

my mother tongue
is my mother’s tongue
she is a song of stars
her name, lost in translation

to a language that doesn’t know how to pronounce her correctly
blunts the soft and sacred arabic spirit
into the straight edges of their pleases and thank you’s

to a language that
paints a mockery of accents and broken english
on a canvas absent of sorry’s

i spit tongues
foreign between lips
master lyrics in the vernacular
sing prophecies into dark grounds
that brew storms at the bottom of coffee cups

sometimes, the words stumble out of my mouth
like wilted flowers made of glass
jagged edges cut the insides of my cheeks
as we talk blood, fire, and men

my mother tongue
is my mother’s tongue
she is a song of stars
her humanity, lost in translation

to a nation that demands that her children at once confess their birthplace
“here” is not an answer they are willing to stomach
would rather dance this tired charade with you

beat the colour out of your melanin
interrogate the genesis of your god
than to accept

you

are a migratory bird who got lost along the way,
wounded
and can’t find its way back
but this nest is all you have

leaving the womb
i did not seize any land
but the inheritance of courage with trembling lips
the weapon of his smile
the elixir of her love

i wear it like a family heirloom
across my collarbone
i was a time between time,
birthed into the twilight

i learned that when a man cries
the shore meets the sand
with every tide
and the sea returns to me

the contours of my spine
are the tops of hills and valleys
they tell stories of sleepwalkers
who awaken from night terrors before dawn
to catch a glimpse of mountaintops

i visit all of the places my father’s dreams have been
sequels in transit
from generation to generation
across raging oceans

that weather questions that taunt and scratch and wither:
when do we get to shed our skins of second class?
look, we worked hard
drilled degrees and diplomas on our walls

have we done enough?
sacrificed enough?
assimilated enough?
are we enough? for you

i visit all of the places my father’s fears have been
in pent up masts and spars of fury
ashen stormed ruins of grief and sullen faces
occupy the insides of glass bottles

the day the ships came
his hands holding a map of ashes
set in motion
heartbeats of war drums and friday prayer sermons

compass needles morphed into swords
pointing me towards jerusalem
running,
i gave up searching for home

stuffed zaatar and almonds and sage into my front pockets
to not forget where i come from
and moved to the beat of my own drum

kept dancing until the air was drunk
with the sweet smells of rose water and saffron
and truth dribbled like honey
from the mouths of babes

fell out love with belonging
settled nowhere and for no one
detached my backbone
and tethered it to velvet wings

daughters of palestine’s diaspora
take flight amidst battle cries
forgotten by tomorrows,
survive in the telling of story
of warriors and intifada martyrs
protests and acts of political warfare

we are the children born from olive trees
into resistance
the pulses of our beating hearts, is too, a revolution.

lh
apr 2020

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