Three poems by Palestinian writer Aicha Yassin

Yassin is a Palestinian writer living in Israel, and her poems are youthful, raw, and sincere. I’ve picked three that I particularly loved, and you can find more prose and poetry on her blog.

No wonder we throw stones

On the morning of 12th August,
My house was razed to the ground
In Silwan, where I was born under the fig tree.
Have you ever lost your home?
At the end of the day,
After the people who came to stand with us had gone,
After dust filled my lungs, that it didn’t bother me anymore,
After I remembered that I have a body and I’m hungry,
After all of these things, my first instinct was
Going home to take a shower.
But there’s no home to go back to-
Do you feel how I feel?
They demolished my house under a lousy
Excuse of a building permit that I can never dream of attaining.
I was left with a hole in my heart
And a huge swath of debris:
Mounds of stones, rocks and fragments of cement
Situated where my living room once was.
I didn’t know what to do.
I stayed there all night, enduring the Jerusalem cold winds
To contemplate this inescapable mount of loss:
I worked non-stop to cut the stones into manageable sizes,
And I put them into baskets and distributed them like a stork
Across Jerusalem-
Now we have stones to throw.

Attributed to her sister Safa 

The night after they unearthed a mass grave In Tantura*

I couldn’t sleep.
I’m visited by ghosts demanding justice.
Unearthed too little
Too late,
Unrecognized by their own doers.
How can I sleep when I have guests?
Dates, nuts and tea
What my grandmother taught me
about hospitality
when I lived in the village.
But that is not enough:
Makeshift beds and mattresses out of blankets-
they’re here to stay.
Until they’ve found their peace
Until their names are written
Until they’re remembered
And their murderers names declared
So loud as the mouazen screams during the Friday prayer.
How can I sleep?
My pain too deep,
Anxiety and urgency to fulfil their need:
Till dawn I’m hunched over
Writing down many letters in different tongues
Pleading for truth,
Out of love for truth,
Out of love for justice,
But also out of tiredness:
My living room shrunk and I can’t find a space to be
My elbows tight, my mind distraught
Why can’t I sleep? Some call it insomnia,
I work at a sleeping lab believe me –
I know what’s wrong, it’s
Self-diagnosis based on history and anamnesis:
Severe injustice with mild symptoms of bad faith.
and the remedy? recognition, liberation.
In the meantime, to assuage the pain,
I endure the night and rise with the sun,
holding endless ululations in my arms.

* The Tantura village was displaced and razed to the ground by Israeli forces in 1948 during the Nakba. This year, an Israeli excavating team unearthed a mass grave there.

Your last days

Your worst pain was that you stopped finding the right words:
My name became my cousin’s, a table became a skirt and the wild fig turned docile almonds.
When you realized your progressing aphasia, you lamented this life.
A life in which not only you can’t move without the help of a chair or a supporting hand,
But you can’t say what you feel and think.
And yet, we understood you.
We heard your prayers and wishes through your eyes,
And your smile revealed the warmth that cannot be contained nor named.
You always seemed to remember everyone and everything:
The distant cousin in the States,
The widowed neighbor,
The way to make Awameh- you make the best Awameh in the world!
You said you will teach me how to make it, but we never did.
I need more time with you
to teach me how to make Awameh;
how to navigate this life with grace;
How to build a strong family and how to sew torn garments.
I need more time with you grandma
Telling me about how to raise 12 kids and cook and toil the land and maintain a strong, upright posture.
I need more time with you so I can learn patience and acceptance.

Your last days were difficult: hooked up to a peeping breathing machines,
The face swollen, and your legs bruised from not moving.
Your visits to the hospital became frequent, and every time you conquered the morbid white-washed breath of death
And came back home – our pillar.
The house was built around you- your sons and daughters all revolve around you like wet checks longing for warmth.
Every time you beat death and came back home
we celebrated you.
This time you entered the hospital knowing something we didn’t know-
Unreal pain.

Your absence is heavy. Your couch is still empty
An empty matriarch throne- as if we’re waiting for you to come back.
Your rosary, your dresses and your shawls.
You left few material things, and so much strength.
We, your grandchildren, promise to carry it with us
Armed and ready to conquer life.

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