Three Palestinian Boys, Marwan, 1970

Death is no equalizer

Nothing is equal in the eyes of—

In the gaze of—

In the Of


Where is the third beloved head

(It is where all of our heads go)

While they stand consequential as passports

(I have hurt myself within the borders of the page)

(I have done this so they may see me)


Where are their legs their feet

(Where the soil ends and the dream begins)

I have painted myself green and mottled

I have asked my body to crumple and rupture

In the desire pulling my eyes to the paint they remain

Unreachable unreached and unreaching they remain

Where do they belong?

(Never in the marketplace of nations)

(Never in the deleterious exchange of hands)

(Never in my pitiful abject sight)

(Never in my soft abject palms)

The torsos joined into a picket line

Fused like butter in the crumpled building’s dead refrigerator


Where am I to look at them this way

As though lying down for them

(Prostrate in the tall grass waiting to be discovered)

And my hands so pitiful and empty

The language of survival cold within my teeth

Whatever I am seeking it is nowhere

And whoever I wish to be is dead

(I should kiss each of their cheeks)

(I should kiss them)

(I should have kissed them)

I should not have been born


And where do they belong?

In the gentle abjection of the cactus spine a bird impaled upon it

In the blood leaking from the general’s eyes as he gurgles

In the survival language cracking my teeth to flee my mouth

In the folding and crumpling of my fingers as they break

(Are broken)

Copyright © 2022 by Fargo Nissim Tbakhi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 25, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.