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Bedouin Eyes



My hands turn to claws, tear

newspapers declare war

the West erupts against

those backward Arabs

my throat bubbles, chokes with acid hate

rage and salt water form cesspools

in my Bedouin eyes and blind me

my breathing shallow

mind numb and calculated


the gardenia scent of my country

has never seemed farther away

I see your guns aimed

in the name of justice;

tearing flesh, stopping a breath

in mid-exhale, a heart

in the second half of its beat

when you scream terrorists

I hear the prayer of my family

a tight canopy against the falling sky

while you count mortalities, I see faces

that look like mine


now my lips will not form the words of Allah

as I feel our city shudder, then

break and collapse onto itself

my lungs save their wind for curses

as my people, bruised, cannot rise

and I welcome

the nausea which overtakes


forces my body to sink to the floor








When will we learn

A massacre is a massacre

Is Sabra and Shatila

Is Jenin


When will we remember

Freshly turned earth welcomes

A broken body as willingly as a seed

Harboring both as night falls


When will we turn away

From another mother's grief

Avert our eyes as she stumbles,

Body bowing over a dark patch of earth


When will we erase intifada from our vocabulary

Watch a soldier don a helmet, flak jacket, M-16

Before bulldozing another orange tree

When will learn to ignore the sound of wood

Cracking as it splits

Down to 40 year old roots

When will we understand

A house carefully constructed easily gives way

To hardened steel

To a power greater than its own


When will we give up

On UN investigations and war crime tribunals

No one watches our small piece of land

No cameras access our daily dose

Of death and destruction


When will we fade away

Another people erased, just another

Cherokee, Apache, Navajo

History rewritten without our name


When will we learn

A massacre is a massacre

Is Sabra and Shatila

Is Jenin


Is forgotten





ghaflah - the sin of forgetfulness



born by the mediterranean

our mothers bathe us in orange-blossom water

olive trees and cedars

strain to give us shade

we come to america where they call our land

the East        meaning different/dark/dirty

we soon forget

our grandmothers combed hair like ours

we wish our hair blonde      our eyes and skin light

we know barbie

looks better than scheherezade

we think french makes us sophisticated so

we greet each other bonjour instead of salaam

proud of our colonizer's tongue

we forget the Qur'an sings in arabic


when we arrived

our fingernails pierced the palms of our hands

we stared at pictures of our children

eye sockets carved out by rubber bullets

on the 10 o'clock news

our brothers and sisters spit up blood and teeth

and CBS declared them "terrorists"


now we turn away from bruises and broken bones

body counts and funerals

we know we cannot help   anyway

we forget we once stood on the same ground

they die on

we look for the arabia packaged by the west

we escape into clubs to watch

blonde bellydancers named jasmine

sashay almost naked

we eat pasty hummous at eight dollars a plate

and tell each other

how much we miss our home


Originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Sept 1998 and The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology, edited by Nathalie Handal (Interlink, 2001).