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Deema K. Shehabi

By This Poet

2

Gate of Freedom

Lovers of asparagus, alive
as hummingbirds, place their nostrils
over a low cloud, wet of air.
It's the year of green hills
in California that early spring;
the evening is blue-split between the first
snow on the mountain top,
and a computer screen, where news of a man
whose body is eating itself, scythes
the long-stemmed breaths in the room.
"Do not weep if my heart fails," he writes.
"I am your son."

Gate of Love

Son I have. Your hands bulge
with pear tree blossoms.
You are bellow and sweat,
hunger and bread.
I part the fog to find you
through a grimy crowd of kids.
Before you give in to the affection
that soils you in public,
I'll promise you a truce.

Gate of the Sun

Bristling down the chemical-
scraped hall uttering
assalamu alaikums to the young
patients from the UAE, their heads sagging
to the side, their bodies a shrine
to tumors, husks of overgrown cells,
the chemo fountain. One boy
stares through a sieve
of darkness, hewn around dark-gray clouds.

 

Gate of Peace

"I have so many sons withering,"
I whisper to the Chinese elm, as news
of the man whose body is eating itself,
disputes with the bresola on crisp baguette
that I'm eating in a garden

among the flung-out
blue jays and limping Daddy long legs.
No hymns left;
only a small neck
the sun gnarls through.

 


About this poem:
"The poem was inspired by Palestinian hunger striker Samer Issawi's moral fortitude in the face of draconian detention. The rapid growth of children, the mediocrity and spontaneity of springtime, and a diminishing mother's role in her child's life are juxtaposed against larger tragedies such as death from disease and death from hunger."

Deema K. Shehabi

Migrant Earth

So tell me what you think of when the sky is ashen?
         —
Mahmoud Darwish

I could tell you that listening is made for the ashen sky,
and instead of the muezzin's voice, which lingers
     like weeping at dawn,
I hear my own desire, as I lay my lips against my mother's cheek.

I kneel down beside her, recalling her pleas
the day she flung open the gates of her house
     for children fleeing from tanks.

My mother is from Gaza, but what do I know of the migrant earth,
as I enter a Gazan rooftop and perform ablutions in the ashen 
     forehead of sky? As my soul journeys and wrinkles with homeland?

I could tell you that I parted with my mother at the country
     of skin. In the dream,
my lips were bruised, her body was whole again, and we danced 
   naked in the street.

And no child understands absence past the softness
    of palms.

As though it is praise in my father's palms
as he washes my mother's body in the final ritual.

As though it is God's pulse that comes across
her face and disappears