leena aboutaleb

LOOK: 7odood Briefs!


Look, The Soldier Says, Bored, Gun Sleeping Mid-Air. My Father Holding Our Papers
At The Window Like A Bargain, A Begging 
LOOK, My Mother Says, Banishing Her Accent Between Documents 
You Are Here To Keep Us Safe, My Father Agrees, 
Nodding, Of Course, Don’t Want A Repeat Of 

One Uncle Keeps Getting Kidnapped. His Sister Sends Him 
U.S. Car Parts For Work. We Pay Ransoms On The Way To School, 
My Head Pressed Against Heated Glass. I Don’t Look When They Argue. 
He Is An Hour Or Two Away. Everyone But My Father Is Palestinian Here. 


The Guard Glares, Infuriated By My Blase Answers 
Liar, He Says, Give Me A Better Answer. Bitch Spitting On His Teeth. 

Because I Wanted To Be. The Others Laugh 
Passport Boxed & Sealed—LOOK  


My Father Is Still Holding Our Passports On The Window 
Convincing Soldiers No Threat, LOOK, Our Kids Only Want To Play 
In The Sea. My Father Is Egyptian, Therefore He Has A Sea. 


I Love My City, My Country, Baladi, Watani—Isn’t That The Truth? I Grin At The Camera [Qasr El-Nile], Men Shout, The Rifles Aim At My Head In Traffic, So West Bank! I Cheer. I Pull My Breasts Out In Sinai—No, Akeed, I Am 
Egyptian Just Like You


Your Arab Papers. 
I Don’t Have Any. 
Sorry, I Smile In All-English, Politely Aware An Egyptian Needs $2,000 USD To Enter
A Warlord-Eaten Country. A Palestinian Is Banned. Civil War Tensions, You Know? I Don’t Have Arab Papers


Did You Take Any Pictures? Palestinians Are Not Allowed Here 
My Mother, Legally, Is Jordanian. Her ID Is In Her Hand. The Soldier 
Refuses. Your NameYour NameIs Palestinian


They Thought I Stole My Uncle’s CarMy First Cigarette, Bloody, 
A Nice Threat, He Laughs, Teeth Too-Sharp
What Is The Use In Being Palestinian? 

Be Careful, He Insists A Year Later, They’re Idiots. They’ll Kill
I Know, Albe. I Know The Way You Know. The Way We All Know. 
It’s All A Cliche. A Myth None Of Us Wanted To Be A Part Of. 

It’s Okay, I Tell Him, The World Is Ending Anyways. Let Me Live. 
You Keep Watching Me Swallow Brutality As If There’s A World In It. 
I Don’t Want To Die. I Didn’t Come From Ramallah To Die Here. 

It’s 3AM, Why Are They Still Shooting? 


Do You Know Where You Are? 
You Are Three Steps from Jericho. How Did You Get So Close? 
Where Is The Crossing? 
No Photos. 
The Moon, At Least. Please.


elegy (i); the grave

After and with lines from Diana Khoi Nguyen 

I wake in the morning, buried falling asleep to your corpse body long gone imagine the way baba wa mama akh what have you done ya habeebi syrian wails stealing her throat yousef ya albi shu had her head split on the wall to come with you how selfless a mother’s love, so loving for you to never be alone grab a scythe, make justice. I have spent a decade nightmaring your grave wa I will spend the rest of my life dreaming of a brother eternally twenty-five tell me how dates taste there, how sweet your soil, how warm the cloth I wake up in your grave do you feel the coffee I make us, the tea, the bateekh, what about the salt on my skin? never meant to die that night I know there’s a dagger in my throat til I die for you if your brother dies is killed kills himself is alive you will see your brother the prophecy intones so you follow me into my dreams. I see you, habeebi, for months the closest since we were children with shrapnel you begin to own the shadows you become mazes wa corridors I wake up in a mess of tears is it cold underneath? is death warm? please, turn, look at me, face me I want to see our eyes one last time look at what you have done let me die with you please let me see our eyes once more please let me see your face once more I wake up in our old home you are with our dead, laughing, cigarette still fil eedak wa you ask me to laugh with you how can I ever say no we are both dead I wake up in your grave on my luckiest days you died and became celestial time is your hands, our fates threads you witness I want to die you told baba the morning of fortune teller inta did jinn whisper, did you laugh in relief? if your death was not gentle, I will kill the Angels with my hands I swear by my heart, on my eyes did you smile when I put soil on your grave I fought my way past men for you I refused to leave you I held you blue for hours I kissed your eyelashes please turn to look at me I am begging for one more second I want to see our eyes one more time please look at me tell me how I am to live wa die how am I made to wake up in death tell me how can I love without craving face open to show them what you left behind a desperate sister tell me what you have done I want to see you with our eyes yousef look you were alive once and I am dead now yousef I am glad you are dead yousef I will laugh with you forever I will stay in this grave with you til time ends please don’t be lonely anymore yousef I am glad you are dead I am dead I am glad you are dead I stay alive I am dead I am glad you are dead I keep myself alive in stolen time I eat the flowers how mama trained us fedayeen I find the sea to you yousef 

ya yousef, I am happy you are


leena aboutaleb is an Egyptian and Palestinian writer, primarily searching for fruiting trees to sleep under. She can be virtually located @na5leh on Twitter.