When the census came,
they called us Caucasian.
When we went to school,
they called us Arabs.
When we met the Arabs,
they called us Catholics.
When Athenos brand started making hummus,
they called us Greek
and when we made spanakopita on Christmas,
we called it sabanegh.
When we made Moroccan couscous,
we called it Israeli
And when the towers fell, we were Americans.
And when the towers fell, we were afraid.
When we were asked at the airport,
we were Lebanese.
And when the people who asked us were Lebanese,
we feigned the accent all the way to our respective gates.
When the war began, we were Syrians.
I have been Syrian for three years, since I heard a girl of three
washed up on a tepid Turkish shore like a cold cup of coffee,
reciting the Lord’s prayer in her Levantine tongue.
When churches burned and the Copts bled,
we were Egyptian for decades.
When my cousin was born with maple-colored curls,
we called her blonde
and when we wanted boyfriends and girlfriends,
our parents called us Americans
and when they passed the history test and swore on the Bible,
we called our parents Americans.
When the forefathers founded a new homeland,
they called the people who lived there Indians
They fashioned some stars, and they called it America
After the massacres, they called them Native Americans
After our massacres, no one called us Native Israelis.
When we elected a Black man president, we called it progress.
We don’t hate anybody,
my mother always said,
What we hate is being called terrorists as we tend the nativity
What we hate is being erased from Google maps
What we hate is by any other name, still called genocide.
Aren’t we all Palestinian?
In the way we are all lonely and nationless when we are dead
reduced to bodies, to be swallowed up by the earth ?
In America, indigenous people were confined to reservations until 1924
In America they still call it the Department of Indian affairs
In America they’ve called it Gaza, the West Bank, the Palestinian territories
On Google maps they don’t call it anything at all
When my grandmother is asked where she is from,
she answers in broken English
Betlehem, where Jesus born!
I stand to correct her.
She is from Palestine, where your Jesus was born,
where your Jesus walked, where our children are
blown up with phosphorus.
She is from Palestine, land of Mahmoud Darwish, Turkish coffee,
and the freshest falafel you will ever taste.
Say it for the middle school teacher who made a point
of mispronouncing my last name: Palestine.
Say it for the U.S. census that calls us white: Palestine.
Say it for the stuttering newscaster: Palestine.
Say it for the bumbling history professor: Palestine.
Say it for the Biblically challenged: Palestine.
Say it for the little child born in a manger: Palestine.
Say it for the people in the back row: Palestine.
Say it for the people in the front row: Palestine.
Say it and say it again and again, the letters
becoming softer in your mouth.
falasteen, ya bladi
When my grandmother is tired, it sounds like a swallow
fluttering outward from her throat