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Fiction by Norwegian Women

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Blood by Naomi Shihab Nye

Gaza by Everitte Barbee 

by Naomi Shihab Nye

“A true Arab knows how to catch a fly in his hands,"
my father would say. And he’d prove it,
cupping the buzzer instantly
while the host with the swatter stared.

In the spring our palms peeled like snakes.
True Arabs believed watermelon could heal fifty ways.
I changed these to fit the occasion.

Years before, a girl knocked,
wanted to see the Arab.
I said we didn’t have one.
After that, my father told me who he was,
“Shihab”—“shooting star”—
a good name, borrowed from the sky.
Once I said, “When we die, we give it back?”
He said that’s what a true Arab would say.

Today the headlines clot in my blood.
A little Palestinian dangles a toy truck on the front page.
Homeless fig, this tragedy with a terrible root
is too big for us. What flag can we wave?
I wave the flag of stone and seed,
table mat stitched in blue.

I call my father, we talk around the news.
It is too much for him,
neither of his two languages can reach it.
I drive into the country to find sheep, cows,
to plead with the air:
Who calls anyone civilized?
Where can the crying heart graze?
What does a true Arab do now?


*Artwork: by Everitte Barbee

The text for this piece is Surah 85: Al-Buruj written exactly once, starting in the darkest area read from top to bottom, and then continuing continuing in the lighter text, and finally finishing in the lightest areas, representing the post 1967 settled land.

The map of Palestine is depicted showing the different borders as they have changed over time. The darkest area represents land which was given to Israel by the United Nations in 1948, the slightly less dark areas represent land captured by Israel in the war immediately following its creation. The lightest grey areas represent land which Israel has illegally settled since the war of 1967 when it invaded neighboring countries, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The white areas represent land which the remaining Palestinian Arab population is allowed work and live in.

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