susiya

Doyali Islam

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for the nawajah clan, and others

 

in the south hebron hills the slanted hills

recall old songs, and the women collect

them like rain. the men have two-syllable

names—'azzam, yūsuf, khaled, nasser—each

name (from their fathers and their grandfathers

before) a dark foot binding them to the

land. they tend sheep and honour the resistance

a windpipe gives a blade. when the machine

arrives with its yellow claw, the clan sings

thalāthīn nijmaha love song

for the hills. khaled's throat is a dry well.

if he could split his tongue in two, he would

stake half in the earth and tend a singing

tree, a slim upward band of green with fresh

water from places they knew. now they camp,

and memory is an urgent neighbour.

but just as hope seems severed from hope, one

amongst them lifts the shabbābahthe old

six-holed flute severed from pvc pipe.

feet spring up on fevered earth: ten pairs of

hands are clapping, and sara nawajah

at seventy is dancing, the slim green

band at her waist turning circles with her.

see the embroidered white cloth streaming from

behind her head a flag in the absence

of olive branches? see their jaunty

shadows, long in afternoon's light, knocking

upon a fence, asking it for a dance.

 

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Doyali Islam, "bhater mondo" from heft

Copyright © 2019 by Doyali Islam. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Source: heft (McClelland & Stewart, 2019)