Here I Stand On Torrid Land

here i stand on torrid land

my spirit wandering the dusty sand

of fig trees, khubz (bread) and floured hands

i stand just

foot driven deep

in the earth’s crust

sure-footed grip of rocks and mortar

my soul ripped in two

by grief’s torture

small hands grasped lightly

by the remembrance, of her

soft dough-baked grip of salt, of land

ancient yet present her cherub eyes danced

table-side love, she spoon-fed her clan

with grape leaves and olives

and, not so dainty, meat pastries

prepared from the vines, toiled by cede’s hand

his backyard bounty, his dreams — their dreams

of their homeland and my dreams of

hot cement days and barefooted children

pretending the dawali, the stuffed grape leaves, are stacks of cigars

stuffed, rolled, stacked high on big plates

the dawali grows higher

creating bigger heaps of make-believe

fun time with cousins

longing for the smells of dusty left behind relics

that bespeak of them, their belongings

the hookah, the 8 track tapes, belting out loud Arabic music

the robe and headscarf my grandfather wore, not so long ago

in Ramallah, the curious one that later became a halloween costume

worn by my childhood friend

and that old oriental rug beaten by history

splayed across the living-room floor, adding an air of the exotic

to their mundane-colonial-suburban sofa

the lamb and garlic stained air, smelt early at daybreak

seemed always there, lingering about

oiled-hot-pots, full, brimming with tomato broth baths

and grown ups lamenting the evening news, the war, the fight

for the return of their land, usurped by foreign man

those that had suffered atrocities of their own

have turned ugly, heaping nails, spitting bulldozers

claiming god has promised this to them

easily they slipped between tongues

english and Arabic at once

they were here/there simultaneously

they had created a new language, one easily understood by us

and me, absorbing all this with my round brown eyes

unaware of my future task

silently inhaling the smoke of my

family’s lingering rage, the kind of rage

that clings to the walls, to the curtains, to the furniture, to me

to my stuffed pink panther

the one i loved so much for its unique shape and color

the color of bubble gum and pink lemonade — but the rage!  

the rage had to be scrubbed off the walls, scrubbed off the furniture

scrubbed off my clothes, scrubbed, scrubbed, scrubbed!

 and i

inherited this task unknowingly.

©Jay Mora-Shihadeh

Photo by FAICAL Zaramod from Pexels

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