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Lisa Suhair Majaj A Palestinian American, Lisa Suhair Majaj is the author of two poetry chapbooks , These Words and What She Said. Her poems “remind us what it is to be human,” utilizing a variety of “ways of knowing,” from the lyrical to the political, the historical to the spiritual. A widely published poet, Majaj is also one of the United States’ foremost scholars of Arab American literature and has coedited three collections of critical essays. Born in a small Iowa farming town to an American mother and a Palestinian father, Majaj moved several times between the United States and the Middle East. She now lives in Nicosia, Cyprus. In Season My father knew the weight of words in balance, stones in a weathered wall. He counseled patience, though, dying, refused his own advice. Today his words surround me with the quiet intensity of growing things, roots planted a long time ago lacing the distances of my heart. What he didn’t say is sprouting too, a surprise, like the eskidinya tree that sprang from the smooth brown pit I tossed off the porch as a child. Years now I’ve longed to pick that fruit— remembering how he’d sit 181 2CHARARA_pages_165-334.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:39 PM Page 181 spitting seeds in a stream to the ground— but I know it’s not yet ripe. So I think, instead, of the lemon tree in my uncle’s yard. When it died, no one could bear to cut it down. They lopped off the branches, but kept the dead trunk, stumps of arms upraised—each bearing, like bird’s nests, a potted plant. Out of habit, they still water the trunk, and as if in return, each branch sparks green— though every heart’s separate, now, not like the lemons that used to cluster like triple suns. Did my parents know that what they planted, roots against the drought, would survive? Today, I’m a stump of a branch. But on my tongue a seed lies dormant, dense with life. Unspoken years fill my mouth like citrus in winter—sharp promise of sun. Outside, eskidinya 182 Lisa Suhair Majaj 2CHARARA_pages_165-334.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:39 PM Page 182 hang heavy as memory, orange flash from dusty leaves, their season still ripening. It Wasn’t Poetry it wasn’t poetry, those years (summer toothsome as a ripe fruit, juice dripping down our wrists) it was trees and shadows pieces of wind blown in from the sea boats and waves and bodies it was the passion moon yellow as a smoker’s tooth palms pressed red against the sky it was voices climbing atop each other like crazed people in a locked room, a child’s wail pulled from a private place it was moonlight pooling on the concrete, long oars of light, the silver odor of blood it was sentinels falling, dregs of desperation, ceasefire seizing the streets, and the future, lifetimes away, dreaming us safe Lisa Suhair Majaj 183 2CHARARA_pages_165-334.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:39 PM Page 183 Arguments consider the infinite fragility of an infant’s skull, how the bones lie soft and open only time knitting them shut consider a delicate porcelain bowl how it crushes under a single blow— in one moment whole years disappear consider: beneath the din of explosions no voice can be heard no cry consider your own sky on fire your name erased your children’s lives “a price worth paying” consider the faces you do not see the eyes you refuse to meet “collateral damage” how in these words the world cracks open 184 Lisa Suhair Majaj 2CHARARA_pages_165-334.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:39 PM Page 184 I Remember My Father’s Hands because they were large, and square fingers chunky, black hair like wire because they fingered worry beads over and over (that muted clicking, that constant motion, that secular prayer) because they ripped bread with quiet purpose dipped fresh green oil like a birthright because after his mother’s funeral they raised a tea cup set it down untouched, uncontrollably trembling because when they trimmed hedges, pruned roses their tenderness caught my breath with jealousy because once when I was a child they cupped my face dry and warm, flesh full and calloused, for a long moment because over his wife’s still form they faltered great mute helpless beasts because when his own...


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