Nakba

Art © Amy Wheaton

POETRY // 04.14.20

Nakba

Lana I. Ghannam

For my Palestinian ancestors who were displaced from their homeland in 1948 and beyond.

 

Little bodies pocked with bullets. There’s not enough dirt
to bury them. Smoke fills the streets, fills mothers’ abayahs.
Lungs catch fire. Toxic air clings like new skin. Skin too light
for African brothers, too dark for European sisters.

I call this skin my kin.

There’s a white man in my living room. His video games
lead with guns. He leans on the couch, the floor free
of bullet shells. He only knows war through controllers,
buttons clicking like Morse code. I play different versions
of intifada in my head. When the white man shoots, I see
the faces of my kin hit the ground. Their eyes hold the sky.

I call this man husband.

Our undoing comes in breaths between our rocks on military tanks,
stones crushed to crumbs. Headlines hold our hopes in heaping piles
over ocean, falling in fragments like fish from broken nets. We do not
let it lodge in our throats, this faith that we’ve sprouted from ancient
soil. We do not let them name us insects, do not let them squash us,
but we paint our wings the color of water and wash the fire from our lungs.

I call this falasteen.

Husband’s blue eyes don’t leave the screen. His rage feels right
because no one screams back. I want to scream. My father’s name
is weightless. My mother’s name is weightless. Our blood crossed
seas before flying back to deserts that kiss the old dead sea. I want
to sing him my name, weighted in a land my parents had to earn.
His hands punch buttons, spin joystick. I want his hands to rest.

He calls this rest a save.

My mouth craves remembrance. This language tastes like songs
of my sedo and before, days when land was soft beneath bare feet,
before bombshells bore into ground, before bullet skins showered
seeds in the dust. Let this mouth hold every word
as freshly-plucked feathers: soft, warm, and close. Let it hatch
revolution from newly unclenched teeth. Let it raise whispers
from trees and reach for the sun. Let this mouth sing of the days
before intruders ripped stars from their shirts and waged war

on our last piece of sky.

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