When the houses become hollow, when they were never full
BY DANIA DAOUD.
I think it came in a segregated coffee house in Jerusalem. After the bakers had gone home and the freedom fighters and writers sighed in unison “our work here is done” with smiles of tire crowding every inch of their skin. Maybe it was after the bottomless cups of coffee accompanying the bitter search for something. I hear the folks clatter and laugh, almost loud enough to wade into the steeping of ancient coffee beans we stole back to its rightly possession. I see the men playing cards in the back room on Iranian rugs with looks of renewal. And you too, don’t see me. You see words elegant enough to surpass half-lived truths. And I can die elegantly too. I can die with the world parading me a martyr. I can die resilient, enduring, with purpose. But when I die, my stories die with me. I see the batons, the police holding a little boy on the side of the pavement, where he too, may elegantly die. Survivor’s guilt turned testimony and the tear gas canisters settle into the gravel. Eventually, the freedom fighters become mortal, their stories turn human, and everybody returns home. I think it came from your daughter, samheeni. Because this is diaspora and I am only half yours, samheeni. And your daughter sits lamplight, night skies reciting Al-fatiha saying ‘I know we haven’t spoken in a while, but God light a fire in our bones on nights you didn’t ignite the electricity. Let the layers of Gaza’s moons reflect the blood spilled with shackled bodies lay rusted recoil.’ And God, strip the white man of his complacency because even silver spoons eventually rust. This is children picking yasmine petals for luck. This is mothers planting more olive trees for luck. This is counting the lives lost. This is losing count. This is body forms apologies in cities I can’t claim. This is diaspora. This is carry your stories in Ramallah, carry your stories in Chicago. This is grief and gore is bread if it keeps you alive. This is soft voices spread gossamer thin, praying with both hands tied. This is coming from women who endure, and we come from water and clay. Maybe it's the reason words escape my stomach, get rifled-down in my throat before the residue ever reaches my lips. Maybe it's the reason we are drowned in tides and forced to endure. And I know it's the reason I try to name every river as something I can reconcile. Every time we drown is every time we’re reminded we are ribs and lungs and womb of everything and anything that is collateral. When I tell people where I’m from they say “I’m sorry.” But this body is not burden. This body is border and crevice. Skin, turmoil and dusk. This is escaped. This is forgiven. This is grandmother turned mint to stone. This is grandfather’s poem said too softly. This is diaspora, because I am half yours and I will repeat your stories everywhere.
Dania Daoud was born and raised in Chicago. A Palestinian writer and community organizer, she writes and performs spoken-word poetry in radical spaces for social justice. Her writing aims at navigating her identity as a Muslim woman of the diaspora and serves as a form of healing. Follow her Instagram and Twitter: @dailydania.