In search of home and homeland: Seeking Palestine

Seeking Palestine: New Palestinian Writing on Exile and Home
Penny Johnson, Raja Shehadeh, editors
Olive Branch Press

Your mother’s face once sustained you. Now you have to strain your memory to trace its outline. The place you were born in you can’t return to, even if it were so you could die there. Y130225-seeking-palestineou can only be a nomad, an exile, or a refugee–never at home. Seeking Palestine, an anthology of nonfiction narratives gathers all these voices as it tries to make sense of the largely map-less Palestinian identity.

Susan Abulhawa chases this elusive piece in “Memories in an Un-Palestinian Story, in a Can of Tuna”. In her personal essay, the author best known for her novel, ‘Mornings in Jenin’ captures the breadth of a Palestinian’s nomadic condemnation. Her words–funny and shocking and tragic–tell how she was ping-ponged across geographies as a young girl. Thus, despite growing up in the US for most of her life, she says, “…I have come to understand that it (my life) represents the most basic truth about what it means to be Palestinian–dispossessed, disinherited and exiled.”

“Exile” is the permanent address many have been left with since the Israel-Palestine conflict began with the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. And so as poet and translator Sharif L. Elmusa etches in an essay combining his poetry and prose with river-like flow, not only their presence but even the absences of Palestinians are portable. To lug this presence/absence around, a Palestinian pays steep baggage fees. “I can only go inside myself / into the maze of the hippocampus / which is like going inside a pyramid / and finding the robbers had carted away / the belongings.// What will I shed this round / to complete my portable absence?”

Read the rest of the review at Armed with Amor.

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Afternoon Meditations

A year ago, as a potential resident of London, ON, I spent a gorgeous summer afternoon in Victoria Park. My husband was coming to the city for his final round of a job interview, and I tagged along, just in case we didn’t get a chance to visit the city again. Sitting in this expansive park that afternoon, I contemplated what it would be like to live in London. As I complete a year in the forest city, here are my impressions from a summer ago.

London

A children’s festival is in progress in Victoria Park. I sit on a bench and see squirrels and birds engaging in mini battles over morsels.

Squirrels scamper in ceaseless motion–climbing up and down trees, scurrying across the grass, pausing in wonderment for a few seconds before taking off again.

Dogs, kids in strollers enjoy free walks, rides.

Church bells ring; lunch-goers emerge from offices, heading to big and small eateries to satiate the hunger god.

A man sprawls on the grass, reading a newspaper.

Beside me, on the bench, the pages of a national daily flutter in midsummer’s breeze, letting go of the heaviness of yesterday’s news.

Under a tree, a girl sits alone, ear-phones plugged into her natural audio sockets.

I turn behind and find a brown squirrel looking at me intently.

A young couple sleeps on the grass, embracing each other, oblivious of the world around them.

Alien Winter — I

Sun erases snow
wind howls
winter beseeches.
The church spire
stands mute,
unmoved,
cold.

The wind pauses
its howl,
lunchtime beckons.
School children run
to grab a
windfall of leaves.

Snow motes swirl
ruffling the air’s hair,
the earth’s an eager
bosom.
Children conjure up
castles, snowmen.

The wind screams
tearing through
flags, bare trees
windows
and a sheet of
congealed memory,
unfreezing on the
surfacce–
a foggy morning in
my hometown
half a world
away.

Alien Winter — II

Alien Winter — III