what color (resilience)

I. mid october 2011: writing oneself out of oblivion

today i occupied already occupied
i saw my own fist in the air
pale beacon light house manar
from the black sleeve
of asaf’s jacket

i said
“power to the people”
with a lawyer’s phone number written
hastily black sharpie bold on my arm

after spending yom kippur with elaine brown,
i thought,
what color
is my arm?

what color are the frozen hands
sticking out
of my chest un able
to move to act

what color
is that fist
clutching my heart
ceasing all motion

is it the color of sea
or sandy colored buildings
in new york city mistaken
for the middle east?

II. 23 december: back into existence

it is the color of fists raised
in transit camps all over
wadi salib musrara
hatikva kfar shalem neve sha’anan
kiryat shmona gan ha-ir

it is the color of fists raised
in yalu in nazareth in haifa
in bilin in nabi saleh
in refugee camps
in lebanon and gaza in
all corners of the earth scattered
by wind guns and bombs

it is the color of exiled hands raising pens
in new york paris oakland
south florida too in
third countries or fourth countries
trying to write ourselves back
into existence

the color of hands
building home in the present

the color of voices raised
in tunisia morocco egypt bahrain yemen syria
spain portugal london greece here
calling our beautiful future forth
bringing it
to life

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safta worship

november 2011

i practice the sacred worship of mizrahi grandmothers

who are too old
for the label ‘mizrahi’
who remember fasting on ramadan
and eating ma’amoul on easter

who would have tried to understand
the concept of tents as protest
after living in one unwilling
for years.

who survived in the world
by the sheer force of their resilience
who still wail
when someone they love dies
or if there is news of violence on TV.

who shouted to keep
their children
their houses
their tables
their shops
at those who tried
to take it all away

who died before they could find a place
they could call home but
who have some sweet memories
in every place
and left behind some children every where

children who will always know that
wise and tired smile
and recognize it
when it settles finally
on their faces.

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oakland poems

oakland, 25 october 11
published on occupywriters.com: http://occupywriters.com/works/by-amirah-mizrahi
and mondoweiss: http://mondoweiss.net/2011/10/palestine-in-oakland.html

I. second person present

when you are there
nothing else
is real.

tear gas makes you calm
a warm comfortable room
is disorienting

the shaking you feel
is each cell rising up
to protest with you
each person marching
is a cell
in the blood stream
of resistance flowing

is a vein

II. first person past

i was wadi salib 1959
i was musrara 1971
i was palestine in oakland
like never before i was
all the places
in all the radical histories
i know and don’t know

i heard a trumpet in a marching band
play a tune i recognized
bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao
clapping hands marching feet i gave
away shirts as scarves
to shield faces

today i was a time
place comma date
that some day some one will be
when she is again marching
in the streets and
knowing history
holding it

III. future perfect

there is a moment of realization
that a new world
is on the horizon we
work hard for her
slowly, painfully we

that there is still work
to be done tomorrow we
go home, wash
tear gas out
of our hair
clean our wounds
each other’s wounds

we remind each other:
love yourself
& build
for tomorrow.

oakland poem II
29 october 2011

in an ancient feeling room
acting like soldiers
acting like monsters

waking up

wildly scratching
at forgotten memories
wild cats scratching
on posters calling
for strike

i can hear helicopters
from here a few
blocks away waiting
war back home
in an order like this:

sleep in
when you need it.

lightly wounded
papers say
who is not
lightly wounded
who does not
need some one
to get through
these times?

summon strike poem
2 november 2011

summon streetwise fast talking calling out claimed reclaimed frekha
summon memory bas lo martyrdom
summon ivrit 3arabizi words out of mouth waves
crashing like ocean mother ocean
port flooded with ocean coming from land
backwards like our language we ocean mother
deep ancient power

summon command of language
confidence of narrative write
anakhnu po anakhnu akhshav a-
sha3b yereed isqat a-nizaam

summon the revolution that comes
born from the space between words backwards forwards coming
rushing the ocean falls on the port
a flood a tidal wave
flood lights mishtara shining
we ocean we reflect na7nu elba7r

night sticks on legs walking in train station 19th
12th street closed due to civil unrest could not get inside
night sticks bas gam human beings
night sticks carried by human beings
summon humanity tonight
we here

summon shvita klalit izraab 3am
we did it now

know fear we know fear
summon shoshana circle hair strong voice
command of language confidence of narrative
summon love
one another
in these times we need it
summon safe
in each other
we can.

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يا طير, يا طير / my sister

for neveen

my sister
is a bird
يا طير, يا طير

she let her hair taste the salt
of the gulf of mexico first before deciding, she
let go her enemies she
taught me the importance of dabke, she
wore hijab and swore like a sailor
to spite those hateful and easily shocked.

my sister
is a bird
يا طير, يا طير

she told me that i can be palestinian
read my star chart and my dreams
took so much care not to offend them once
while always still offending any
ways she

is trapped behind apartheid walls
kept wandering in suburban mazes
surrounded even by the ancient wounded gulf
she hears the screams
of the world’s oppressed she
cries for freedom with them

pregnant since birth
with the child that is palestine
but light still
wind on her wings
يا طير, يا طير
she is a bird a phoenix even
she will rise from the flames
of burning empire
she will be free
i know
we all will be
some day

يا طير, يا طير

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identity creature

i am
a papier-mâché
fairy tale

pieces of
hebrew language
black panther
scholarly papers
and political manifestos
poems never shared
with the world

sewn together
with knotted scraps of black thread
come loose
from a keffiyeh worn too often

my eyes are
sea glass
beer bottle bottoms
worn smooth

my hair is
moppy curly
tree branches
and spider webs
growing wild

a crack in the piece
my brain from my heart:
the green line.

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poem for sa’adia

sa’adia you died in 1967
whose blood was on your hands i don’t
want to know i’m more interested now
in whose hands your soul
was strangled with

i am not yet a woman
with hands that can touch fire without pain
i have born witness though
a heavy child long overdue
words born now too late

today i will attend a talk
by a scholar
who will ask and answer the question,
“can yemenite-jewish wailing be regarded as erotic performance?”
i will be queer and academic
a wailing arab woman all
at once

did your mother wail sa’adia
when you went to die
for the state that sprayed you,
housed you in a tent called you
she wailed
for back home
for the loss of you

while i am in this talk sa’adia
an american man called troy davis will be put to death.
he was too shakhor
to be granted life by the state

i’m wailing for you sa’adia
i’m wailing for troy davis
i’m wailing for
whose blood is on
your hands,
my hands.


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what i said instead

been spending some time
caught up

trippin on cracks
in the sidewalk made by tree
roots growing defiantly
where some
one said trees can only grow
in the parks and on the
of the buildings

tangled in between
wires bumping
into walls and tables and having trouble
fitting through hall
ways weighed
down by traveling bags

between poetry
and slander not
to name names.

stumbling on the earth
quakes caused by a switch
in languages trying
to drag out
from the depths.

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