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Migrant Earth

By Deema K. Shehabi

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

Added: Thursday, July 3, 2014  /  Used with permission.
Deema K. Shehabi

Deema K. Shehabi is a poet, writer, and editor. The daughter of Palestinian parents, she grew up in the Arab world and moved to the United States in 1988. She finished her education in the US, and she received an MS in journalism. Her poems have appeared widely in journals and anthologies such as The Kenyon Review, Literary Imagination, New Letters, Callaloo, Massachusetts Review, Perihelion, Drunken Boat, Bat City Review, Inclined to Speak: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Poetry, and The Poetry of Arab Women. Deema’s poems have been nominated for a Pushcart prize four times, and she served as Vice-President for the Radius of Arab-American Writers (RAWI) between 2007 and 2010.

Her full collection Thirteen Departures From the Moon was published by Press 53 in 2011. She is also co-editor with Beau Beausoleil of Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here (PM Press), for which she received the Northern California Book Award's NCBR Recognition Award. During 2009 – 2013 she worked with Marilyn Hacker on the poem sequence Diaspo/Renga (Holland Park Press, 2014).

Other poems by this author