Remi Kanazi

Layover in Palestine

on a balcony in Bethlehem
Abu Iyad spoke slowly
in Arabic
as if a typewriter
were catching every
letter and intonation

his wrinkled fingers
grappled with a coffee cup
contemplative and precise
contours of the Nakba
mapped into the history
of his face

we stood in front of
chopped-down olive trees
a stump-encrusted hillside
stripped of its fertility
          barbed wire
choking the periphery

banned from land
by occupation forces
who kicked down
his door and abducted
him and his son


feeling like a tourist
outside my own skin
passing, never present
wanting to touch everything
I came in contact with
in case my palms never
pressed down on
this earth again

every trip like a last goodbye
entry never guaranteed
visa never guaranteed
nothing ever guaranteed

what is the purpose of your visit?
where was your father born?
come with me
put that down
take that off
spread your legs
you understand that
this is for security?

you can go
   words I thought
   I would never hear again
a kid with peach fuzz
and a grimace
chest puffed
and trigger-finger itchy
   what hollowed drones
   humans become

got through and felt lucky
got through and felt ashamed
got through and felt ashamed
that I felt lucky
the empire’s passport
burning a hole
in my back pocket

just want to sit and be present
feel what it is like to be home
without someone pulling
on my shoulder
taking me away

Palestine stays
under a microscope
   always communal
never ours

it is exhausting
struggle, liberation
a campaign, a Facebook post
an infographic, constantly searching
for the right words to say
the right message to bring
when all I want is to feel
present in this space
take in this breath
and exist here
if only
for a moment
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