for palestine |  hanan masri


where were ya sitti when the knock came?
hard, insistent
shaking jars of honey and olives,
glass figurines,
the sleeping dust on tables.
perhaps copying curvy words into a notebook,
noticing how so many Arabic letters resemble
pregnant women bending down to pick up children's toys
or maybe helping your mother stuff raw rice into caves of squash,
both of you laughing,
revealing rows of crowded, happy teeth

"If ta hi al bab!"
your mother places a sad, limp hand on your face,
nods, "yes go open the door for our guests."
two men with severe haircuts
wipe the dirt crusted on the tips of their boots on your father's prayer rug,
enter your home like haughty real estate agents,
already imagining the new fruit and flower wall paper
one of them speaks in a language with words stuffed corsets,
the other with an Arabic for Beginners accent,
they caress the curtains as if they were the hemline of a woman's skirt,
stick their guns into carefully prepared koosa,
pull the trigger,
send the air exploding with rice that sticks to your eyelids like white bride's jewels
your mother makes a tight bouquet of you and the other screaming little ones
eighteen bullet seconds to stuff a pillowcase with a necklace,
a change of clothes,
you do not have time to snatch the notebook with the dancing, pregnant women

when you are old and forgiving,
you return to find that house with the cool, white stone face,
the memory of your home stuck to the roof of your mouth,
you do not need a map printed on fancy paper to find it
between two lopsided breasts of green mountain,
fifty steps from Abu-Jamal's grove of orange trees,
no, this is not the house you grew up in throwing olive pits at your brothers
the house in front of you reminds you of a woman with too much make-up on
you take a tissue from your pocket,
wipe your eyes,
crumple it into a white rose

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