The diaspora was my mother's water breaking —
It was a surgeon's clamp and my father's hands
nervously guiding a pair of scissors.
Doctors waded through and dissected every syllable of name,
as my head rested in my mother’s arms
while my father whispered surah al-Fatiha* in my ear.
My parents fed me stories of al-Dahiyeh,
they clothed me in south Lebanon
and lulled me to sleep with the perfume of my grandmother's garden
while she hummed songs on the balcony —
the sun dancing across her tongue.
My childhood is written across every line in my mother’s face
and engraved in the wrinkles of my father’s hands —
fragments of their identity
torn from the pages marked ”lonely departure”
slowly becoming mine.
This is where I learned the savagery of goodbye —
from stories and packed suitcases
destined for home.
Between pat-downs and intoxicating days of summer
where a month changes my heart’s geography
and then —
then I’m left kissing hands and cheeks that are stained with pleadings
for our return
as my grandmothers both tell me:
Don’t wait too long,
because maybe I won’t be here next year.
The greatest pain my heart has known was falling in love with you, Lebanon.
You’ve made me dizzy with longing:
for your mountains,
for your winding roads,
for the smell of burning tires,
and even for the aroma of chaos that lingers in the streets.
I should have ran my clothes across the jasmines in front of my uncle’s house
and filled my pockets with their seeds,
so that I could plant a memory of home
that I could water with my mother’s tears.
As we call home from a distance
“How are you teta?”
“I miss you too”
“We’ll visit soon, God willing”
we are straddling two worlds —
and the map mercilessly devours us.
And sometimes I worry that I will have nothing left to visit
but graves and empty rooms —
and that only there in the cemetery will be the end of my wandering.
*The opening chapter of the Qur’an
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