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When I am asked How Are You?? during the genocide of my people

By Janine Mogannam


pretty awful, all things considered. A few weeks ago
I couldn’t eat anything and now I’m constantly starving.
I know that’s a terrible thing to say.
I think my house plants might be dying but I’m not really sure?
They’re sad and limp-necked. I guess that’s a metaphor.
I’m not so much fun in social situations anymore,
incapable of giving the sparkling conversation
that you’ve come to expect from a people-pleasing
Sagittarius. (I’m in recovery.) I keep talking about war,
and I guess it makes people uncomfortable?
Turns out Americans don’t really want to know the details
of the genocide they’re paying for. But hey!
Here I am! Alive! Did you know that yesterday
a thousand more Palestinians died? On [“thanksgiving”]
I watched a video of a father filming himself
and his young daughter in her last moments of life, her eyes
heavy lidded, her skin already pale as he spoke to her gently
as any father would when coaxing a smile out of his child
for a camera. Witness. My head ached all day
with the thought of his pain. The generosity of filming
such a private and world-shattering moment
in the hope that the end of his world could somehow
inspire others to build a better one.
[But Hamas! you say. But hummus? But “birthright.”] But bombs.
But a [“humanitarian”] pause to take a break from bearing witness
to genocide to eat turkey and celebrate another one.
But a parade to celebrate said genocide + its god
(capitalism). But disrupting the parade every two minutes
to sit in front of Ronald McDonald and scream,
FREE PALESTINE. But our Indigenous siblings rejecting
performative inclusion in said parade to smile and fly
the colors of a Watermelon. But Indigenous siblings on Alcatraz
giving space in their own day of mourning
to dance and chant FREE PALESTINE. But gratitude. But guts.
But my three year old nephew laughing into a full-body
mirror, saying Hello, I Love You to himself, blowing into the glass
so the Palestinian boy on the other side may breathe, too.
But his crooked smile, his small body wiggling in living joy
in front of my camera. And isn’t that a(nother) Free Palestine?





Listen as Janine Mogannam reads When I am asked How Are You?? during the genocide of my people.

Added: Friday, July 12, 2024  /  Poem used with permission. This poem published through the Poem of the Week Series is part of the Poetry Coalition's 2024 slate of programs in the spring and summer that reflect the transformative impact poetry has on individual readers and communities across the nation, and is made possible in part by the Academy of American Poets with support from the Mellon Foundation.
Janine Mogannam

Janine Mogannam is a Palestinian American poet and librarian from San Francisco (Ramaytush Ohlone land). A member of the Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI) and Still Here San Francisco, Janine is the curator of the National Queer Arts Festival’s first queer and trans Arab American performance (2021). Her work can be found in The Still Here Anthology, Writing the Walls Down, The Margins, I Want Sky, and elsewhere, and is forthcoming in Ask the Night for a Dream: An Anthology of Palestinian Writing from the Diaspora (2024) and Heaven Looks Like Us: Palestinian Poetry (2025).

Image Description: Janine has olive skin, brown eyes and curly black hair with threads of silver. She is facing the camera, wearing a v-neck dress with a multicolored floral pattern. Behind her are a bookshelf with a row of books, various pieces of art, and a keffiyeh.

Other poems by this author