Current Issue Excerpts
On visits here, don't complain
when your cousins introduce you as
the Canadian, and you can only protest
in your broken Arabic, your heavy tongue,
I am Palestinian, Nabulsieh. This is my origin.
It's all the same to them: you have a passport,
they don't, you didn't have to live through the Intifada,
You want to know if you can
write in English, if you can write resistance in
the language of one of our colonizers, the language
of Balfour, Rothschild, Allenby and McMahon, as if our mother tongues
ever helped our mothers
except when declaring
there is no god but God.
Memorize the Classics instead.
Not just al-Mutanabbi and Ibn al-Rumi,
not just Virgil and Milton,
but the epics women have written
in the dust on window panes,
flour on kitchen counters,
the strokes of our hands
into dough, rising
invocations to the muse
of ovens and gas tanks,
pouring mint tea elegies
when all that remains
of our dawn hours
is crumbs on the table.
Memorize the work
of illiterate aunts writing calligraphy
in locks of hair, schoolgirl braids
that last through hopscotch.
for a city where life slips
from your grip like a slab
of Nablus soap,
where at midnight a knock
on the door breaks men
and eats your hope.
You are ashamed of your broken
Arabic but I do not trust any language
that does not grieve
for the rubble in the Yasmina Quarter,
in Mukhayyam Balata, Mukhayyam `Askar,
a language that we cannot break
between us like a loaf of bread
and feed mouth after mouth -
poetry for our tongues'
AMAL MASRI has been awarded a residency at Yaddo, a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, a fellowship from Columbia University's writing program, and a residency at the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild. She is a winner of the Toronto Star Short Story Contest and a finalist in the Malahat Review Far Horizons Poetry Contest and the Arc Poetry Magazine International Poem of the Year contest.