(originally published in Asian American Writers Workshop)
A hijacked plane in 1969 lands in Damascus. This means a plane was unable to fly away, to Tel Aviv. I read about the incident in the autobiography of Leila Khaled.
This book is out of print. This means it is difficult to find her first hand account in text though much is written about her. I wanted to write a poem about Leila: a hero,
or terrorist, depending on who you ask. Dareen is the name of a woman,
who lives under house arrest. This means she is unable to leave her home.
Israeli officials categorize her as a threat, she calls herself a poet.
The speaker is an important part of a poem. A rule of poetry, try
not to let the reader out of a poem. At this point I will disobey and say
you are free to go if you choose. Choice is a complicated part of describing
Palestinian heroes or terrorists. The Israeli and Palestinian conflict is studied
in class. The word conflict in English, defined as “a serious disagreement”.
If you are still here, doesn’t that sound fair? Two sides, equally at fault,
each making a choice. Three generations later, I still do not know
how to explain choices. A place was left behind. A place I have never seen.
This means I still do not know how to write myself
into existence. Three boys form a tributary of blood, on a beach in Gaza, elsewhere
a contained border, a family of bones, without broth; these will be described as incidents.
The difference between violence and incidents in a conflict,
depends on the speaker. What word would you choose to begin?
Nakba translates as “Catastrophe”. Ha’atzmaut, “Independence”.
Though Hebrew and Arabic share yawm or yohm,
for day. Alan Dershowitz and other Israeli historians argue
it was a choice of Palestinians to leave the land in 1948.
Argue, a word used when choosing an explanation about why things are.
History is a collection of choices. I have also inherited memories.
Pink prayer beads on the counter. Creases in white fabric, black threads
embroidering live skin. Memories do not always obey
the lines of history’s choices. My grandfather fled the land
when he was eight years old, leaving his mother at home.
This means he never saw her again. Many will continue to argue
leaving and never returning is a choice, not a violence.
A poem, depending on the speaker, an act of incitement
to violence. Concrete left in the throats of children, a mother’s final glance,
a segregated beach, a segregated sun; it is all just
a great misunderstanding, a conflict. I have changed my mind.
I am leaving
you and this poem behind. A choice, I choose, this time.
- This article appeared in the AJDS Magazine Just Voices 16: Israel / Palestine 1948