Thank you, Suha Afyouni and Asaf Shalev, for conversations we had in passing that ended up bringing this poem to life,
and thank you to the brave and beautiful people people who wrote this imperfect and inspiring letter.
3 may 2011 / 27 nisan 5771
in between yom hashoah and youm alnakba.
when you say,
“talk about ethnic cleansing!”
as if it never happened to anyone else,
it’s like you’re committing it
while you are driving
yellow-plated car on the road built just for you
to the settlement with the private security
(that you only moved into,
cause someone gave you some money
to get out of the projects,
it’s not personal or anything),
think of your mother
afraid to leave the mellah,
when your daughter stares for too long
as the man demolishes his own house,
and you turn her away,
asking what she learned in school today
(in hebrew of course, since you’re out on the street),
that you are turning your back
on your grandfather
who drained the swamps all day and night,
not light skinned enough
to make the desert bloom,
bitter at his children,
and the daughters like yours who stared,
instead of the state.
i shouldn’t be surprised
when you are eager to forget the names
of the cities where your family used to live:
you never bothered to learn
the name of the family
whose house you’re living in now.
did you still smell rose water on the air,
sweet familiar poison seeping in the cracks of your resolve,
when you sat down
at someone else’s table?
know the cost
of your fabled security,
when you see
women walking barefoot carrying children
shots fired overhead,
look them in the eye,
let them be a mirror
onto your soul,
and stand with them.