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the butcher

By Ghinwa Jawhari

who loved my mother owned a shop on almira street & hung
among the glamorous posters of arabic singers, a black-and-white
photograph of muhammad al-durrah’s murder. the posters faced
the street, but muhammad looked into the small market, his terror
fixed on the wall of cassettes, golden shelves of oil. my mother
walked to the back counter & there the butcher maneuvered
a limb around a vertical trimmer, bone dust coating his mustache,
the hairs of his arms. the bags under his eyes flattened, draining
their red into his cheeks & he asked what she’d like, claimed
he’d already saved the best piece—just one minute. look. he offered
innards: livers glistening in plastic, intestines folded like ribbons of satin.
she’d say beautiful, appetizing. i could not decipher, in its embellishment,
the arabic script on the posters, but under muhammad al-durrah
the butcher had scrawled, in english: ‘a taste of zionist hate.’ no
older than muhammad, i stared at the stained aprons, stubborn
brown edges resembling petals, paint. a carnivore, my mother
knew where to find marrow, would press it between bread & offer
it to us, but for years i could not chew meat without imagining
muhammad’s face, his folded knees. decades have passed. now
the shop sits empty on its corner, the glass cleared. muhammad
al-durrah’s brothers are killed, shrouded, buried, surely dug up
again. al-shifa hospital, where muhammad was treated, is decimated,
under siege. a taste of zionist hate. the butcher who loved my mother
was once anything but a butcher. once knew nothing of organs
or wounds. once built a small home on his own land before it was
flattened, stolen. i remember his sad shrug whenever my mother
tried to ask, his frame too tall for the low ceiling. all of his shirts
had the same indent under his neck, where he’d strung his key.




Listen as Ghinwa Jawhari reads the butcher.

Added: Tuesday, April 16, 2024  /  Used with permission.
Ghinwa Jawhari

Ghinwa Jawhari is the author of the chapbook BINT (2021), which was selected for Radix Media’s inaugural Own Voices Chapbook Prize. Her poetry, fiction, and essays appear in Mizna, The Adroit Journal, Catapult, Narrative, The Margins, Rusted Radishes, and elsewhere. A recipient of fellowships from the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and Kundiman, she is the founding editor of Koukash Review

Image Description: Ghinwa Jawhari turns slightly toward the left in front of a white backdrop. She smiles and looks toward the left out of the frame. Her brown curly hair is shoulder-length, and she wears a black long-sleeve shirt with gold earrings. 

Other poems by this author