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3 Elmaz Abinader Elmaz Abinader is the author of Children of the Roomje, the first memoir about Arab Americans published in the United States by a trade press. A second memoir, From This Country, chronicles her Arab upbringing in a small Appalachian town. Abinader’s book of poetry, In the Country of My Dreams . . . , which has been described as “expansive” and possessing an “enduring tenderness,” won the Josephine Miles/Pen Oakland Award. She has read her poems and, along with the Country of Origin Band, presented her plays to audiences throughout the Middle East, Central America, Europe, and the United States. She lives in Oakland and teaches at Mills College. Living with Opposition 1. Big Differences Someone has told you, It’s an attitude problem. I hear this, say something like, I wonder whose, and drop my head backward into the bath. You walk still standing at the door. I feel my hair pull away, surrounding my head like a spiked crown. I cannot hear you. It’s an attitude problem, like my father, you observed, going to the carnival at the fireman’s hall in his small Pennsylvania mining town. He wore a blue suit, very fine, Italian maybe or even Brazilian. He offered his hand to all the men in their beer covered tee shirts Jimmy, how you doing? You pointed this out to me. My father 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 3 stringing his English together with suits pressed badly and always a little too long. I turned my foot around in the gravel, began to dig an escape tunnel. Your head blocks the light from the hall. You watch my face float on the water— a gory lily pad. What I want to say is you had your chance: your small town, its pleasant white cross on the Lutheran church; everyone deep in thought about the chemical destruction of crab grass. You lost your concentration on little things. I rise from the water and do not turn to look at my face going under. It’s looking at me walk to you and touch you. 2. Breathing Room The trees crashed their tops together and I wondered what the sound was like: the unearthing of the forest? The wooden clappers vibrating in my church ears? We kissed the feet of Jesus on the cross that Good Friday. No bells, only wood beating the walls, the stained glass, the hands held tightly, the eyes wandering away. The cedars beneath the cottonwoods cannot hurl themselves against the long white trunks. What sun they get filters through the swaying of the top branches beneath the booming of the larger trees who would pay to see them swallowed in darkness. 4 Elmaz Abinader 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 4 The first city apartment we had shuddered under the vibrations of jets in and out of LaGuardia. They turned the t.v. into a fun mirror, blurring the faces, throwing the bodies into uncontrolled gyrations. You slumped onto an elbow, held up your head and wondered if all of life were like that— ducking and shaking when things flew overhead. The moon was fake, you said; only a pizza pan. 3. A Habit of Mind I know you are not surprised, but I am asked, why we live apart now. Because we can is what I tell them. I do not say that the river running by your house is bordered by scallops of thick snow, that the fence posts are staffs and the wires, lines waiting for notes to perch like magpies, and when I visit, I take your hand and ski confidently through the forest and never fall and am never noticed. As I hold each log, one after the other, they crumble on me. Pricks of bark and blond dust cover my clothes. I feed the fire in your woodstove and watch the air catch the flame and pull it up through the vent out to the sky. We hear its breathing in the next room afraid to get out of bed until the house is warm, until we can stand, your long arms wrapping my bare shoulders Elmaz Abinader 5 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 5 watching the snow cradle in the branches of the trees on your mountainside. 4. The Master Plan In the city I walk alone blindly clutch my bags against my body...


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MARC Record
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