Art for Nakba.
Detail from "Absent Presence" by Sliman Mansour | Sliman Mansour, courtesy Zawyeh Gallery

Nakba

Detail from "Absent Presence" by Sliman Mansour | Sliman Mansour, courtesy Zawyeh Gallery
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My mother is three years younger than Nakba.
But she doesn’t believe in great powers.
Twice a day she brings God down from his throne
then reconciles with him
through the mediation of the best
recorded Quranic recitations.
And she can’t bear meek women.
She never once mentioned Nakba.
Had Nakba been her neighbor,
my mom would’ve shamelessly chided her:
“I’m sick of the clothes on my back.”
And had Nakba been her older sister,
she would’ve courted her with a dish
of khubaizeh, but if her sister whined
too much, my mom would tell her: “Enough.
You’re boring holes in my brain. Maybe
we shouldn’t visit for a while?”
And had Nakba been an old friend,
my mom would tolerate her idiocy
until she died, then imprison her in a young picture
up on the wall of the departed,
a kind of cleansing ritual before she’d sit to watch
dubbed Turkish soap operas.
And had Nakba been an elderly Jewish woman
that my mom had to care for on Sabbath,
my mom would teasingly tell her
in cute Hebrew: “You hussy,
you still got a feel for it, don’t you?”
And had Nakba been younger than my mom,
she’d spit in her face and say:
“Rein in your kids, get’em inside,
you drifter.”

 

                                        —Haifa

 

Translated by Fady Joudah

 

 

 

Read more from our series by Palestinian poets.

Palestinian writer Sheikha Hlewa was born in Dhayl ’Araj, an unrecognized Bedouin village near Haifa. She is the author of three collections of short stories and one collection of poems, which have been translated into many languages. She is a lecturer in Arab feminism at Ben-Gurion University.

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