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Published: 13 years ago

Shelter

for Dima

 

We are the children of bombs

of broken glass

& shrapnel shadows

 

My mother

records her first memory

Japanese porcelain dolls

arranged like soldiers in kimonos

torpedo to the tatami mat

shatter like bullet shells

as American B-29s

carpet bomb

Tokyo

 

My father

a teenager

soaks his scabrous hands

in puddles of family rice fields

near Hiroshima

as he beholds

a behemoth ball of fire

mushroom the blue sky

into a bloodthirsty orange

so blistering

the shadows of the obliterated

remain

 

Your mother

a refugee

runs through Lebanon ‘s checkpoints

dodges deafening howitzers

ducks the spray of shells

determined not to leave

her daughters

hobbling orphans

nursing bullet wounds

from booby-trapped dolls

in a never-ending war

 

Your father

grabs his daughters

& bolts from Beirut

barely a day

before a fusillade of phosphorous bombs

napalm / vacuum bombs

& a platoon of Israeli tanks level

every building

every crib

in the cradle of Arab culture

 

From opposite ends of this planet

across the Atlantic

across the Pacific

your father / my father

your mother / my mother

move

to America

travel over waters

as vast as the continent

between the fertile crescent

& the land of the rising sun

 

Our parents never exercise

their right to return

but they remember

the water

the warmth

the night sky of their homes

as your parents name you

summer rain / crescent moon

& my parents choose the characters

the purity of the light on the river delta

 

They carry

their suitcases

packed with dreams

bruised from bombs

broken glass

& shrapnel shadows

to California

where we find each other

 

But in this land

I can’t distinguish between

Arabic script

& the scrawls of your hair

stuck on your shower tiles

 

You can’t distinguish between

Japanese characters

& the calligraphy of our interwoven fingers

 

So our relatives wonder

whether we

Arab woman / Asian man

match

or will make it

wonder

whether we will collide

the way Arabic reads right to left

then top to bottom

while kanji slides top to bottom

then right to left

 

In this country

they can only picture

a baby born

50% Lebanese

50% Japanese

add up to

100% internment material

 

& the more

our marriage seems imminent

the more our communities imagine

hijabis spread wasabi

kamikazes don kuffiyehs

Buddha meditates with Muhammad

comment

that they never seen

bamboo root in Beirut

authentic Tokyo tabouli

never heard

or kibbeh for Kodomo no Hi

of ramen in Ramadan

 

But if anyone dares to wonder

whether we will clash

like tablahs & taikos

sake & Turkish coffee

or hummous hand rolls

 

We know

our love is sturdy

like our parents’ suitcases

 

Our love is glorious

as the grape leaves

your grandmother folds like origami

as ornate

as the origami

my grandmother tucks like grape leaves

 

Our love is deep as haiku

intricate as a qasida

 

Our love is the crescent moon

illuminating the river delta

tickled by the summer rain

 

Our love is the dream

our immigrant parents

prayed for

the tarmac their prayer rug

their passports the prayer beads

 

But we do not forget

we are the children of bombs

of broken glass

& shrapnel shadows

 

We do not ignore

our home is the country

that dropped the bombs

that sprayed the shrapnel

that broke the glass

on our parents’ backs

 

We do not play dumb

when we pay taxes

that fund another generation

of children born

under bombs

 

We remember

what we must remember

 

But we forget

what our parents wish us to forget

 

Whenever debris descends from the sky

I only think of your eyelash

precipitating towards my pillow

or ripples in a river

from a summer rain

 

When you see sharp edges of broken glass

you only recall the prickly ends

of a crescent moon

or your nails

clawing my back

 

When we see an orange-colored sky

it only reminds us

of the blossom water

flavoring our Lebanese breakfast

the salmon roe sprinkled on our lunch

or the sunset before dinner

 

You and I

tangle our roots

proud

in the soil of these shores

knowing

our parents will finally unpack

their suitcases

when our children

take shelter

in our arms

the way

I find shelter

in yours

 

 

Photo by Nicole Caldwell

 

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