leena aboutaleb

2021, Poetry

ontologies

I exist until I do not. we are full until hunger calls. I was raised anexoric
so I ignore the phone. spread olive oil on throat, a trick
to keep the hunger distracted. my aunts teach me epistemology.
we are altered. I spent years wishing for my body to go missing.
I felt cheated by fate, as if I should be spared from suffering.
if I am to endure tragedy, give me a home. I became
grateful when men desired me, opening their mouths to eat. I
wished they could erase me. I became
grateful when my brother died & part of me disappeared
into his grave. Arabs swear by dreams. we are alone
until we are not. I see my brother walking in the back of my dreams.
I have two daughters in this world with my ex-lover. I watch him
argue with his girlfriend & move our daughters back to Ramallah. he kisses
my hair. my mouth becomes my own. I make a language
and quote Iraqi poets as an excuse. the bullets my mother dodged
lay thick in my skin. I am marked by the PLO & surrounding armies.
I am born furious. in another world, I become a killer. I remind myself
it cannot be in this world. in this world, my mother forces my name
into practicality. I never wanted to be made
soft then I fell in love. I wondered, lying next to him, if I could be happy
being made into an artwife. an explosion blasts our windows
open; he curses Palestinians. in this world I should not rely on my violence.
my father tells me my violence will keep me alive in this world. I returned
to my country, sliced my breasts & begged for violence.
I fell in love and told him I wasn’t until he left. I never forget how
cruelty is so at home in my tongue. I learn to walk without
showing my blood. I want to forget the butcher knife against
my mother’s throat. I want to drown and come out baptised. I
feel the sweetest when the waxer stretches sugar onto my body,
as if I can be remade. I want to be in Ramallah til I am no longer afraid.
I want to wake up and hitch my legs over his torso. I have forgiven,
love easily. I cannot remember my fear. my memories of the violence
are hazy. I do not want to forget about death. I do not want
to misremember my brother. I know we are born selfish.
I bathe in rosewater as a spell. I put honey on lips
crack pomegranate seeds on cheekbones. I spend my days in love
with the world. my parents made their mistakes so I make mine.
my brother is dead so now I am a twin.
I will never tell him I am in love til
he kisses me, honey-suckle in mouth. I want you to know
I know what joy feel like now.


 leena aboutaleb is an egyptian palestinian writer. She can be virtually located on Twitter at @na5leh.