Deema K. Shehabi
So tell me what you think of when the sky is ashen?
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.
-Deema K. Shehabi
Used by permission.
Deema K. Shehabi is a poet, writer, and editor. She grew up in the Arab world and attended college in the US, where 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. Her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart prize three times, and she served as Vice-President for the Radius of Arab-American Writers (RAWI) between 2007 and 2010. She currently resides in Northern California with her husband and two sons.
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