I’m reading a book about Columbine.
The school nurse, then 33, hid in a cupboard in the library,
crawled against the measurements of her body
wrote a goodbye note on the skin of the door.
“I loved you more than anything. Take care of the dogs.”
I think of the time I scrambled for breath
clutching my mother’s frame as the tank
warmed its oil right outside my window.
Sometimes I wish it was all a big high school shooting,
one, monstrous mountain of tragedy
where you have the rest of your life to grieve.
Next Friday though, things will be different;
Ramallah, wiping itself of the residue of recent compassion,
is throwing itself a party.
For 30 bucks you get a free drink,
one mask to cover some of who you are,
and sit in the front row of a fashion show.
I see small murders in my dreams;
models peeling the front lobes of their hearts with acrylic nails,
jokers planting welcome signs to imaginary cities,
children bathing in the world’s largest hummus plate,
my mother begging an Israeli doctor for her life,
a girl, now 73, holding a key to her locker in Yaffa.
Welcome to our great estates.
Tala Abu Rahmeh’s identity issues began one night, at 3:00 am, in Adams Morgan, a party neighborhood of Washington DC, when she was being hit on (unknowingly) by an African-American guy. When she stared blankly (due to near intoxication and complete social inadequacy), he said “are you scared of me because I’m black?” to which she replied “I’m brown.” When she realized how unimpressive that sounded, she added “I’m ARAB.” That turned some heads (and not in a good way).
After getting an MFA in poetry, and remaining moderately confused about her identity, she returned to her hometown of Ramallah, Palestine, thinking she will be accepted with open arms, but…