Letter to the Unborn Rami Habibi, I will tell you about consent, about not touching others without asking and not letting others touch you without assenting. I will tell you about the patriarchy, I will tell you that as a man, if you identify as one, that you have even more responsibility to smash it. Rami habibi, I will tell you about Palestine. I will not tell you that as you grew in my womb, I also held the children of Gaza there, I will not tell you that some were dead and some were alive. I will not tell you that I hope you will save us all, myself included. I will not tell you that every day I see us marching into the apocalypse, with you at our lead. ...But I will tell you that the purple lightning and turquoise tidal waves, the plasma-screen bright forest fires and the split-legs-in-the-air earthquakes, the crawling vine nooses on the monuments of men and the navel-shaped cyclones anchored by iron-chain chords...are the souls of the indigenous, back for what’s theirs. Baby Rami, this is only the half of it. I hate to break it to you, but your father is Lebanese. Our tears are lava, our hearts are active volcanoes. Our souls are so bullet-ridden that we can’t sleep from the starlight the constellations heap upon us. Our pupils have not stopped dilating since the first world war. I will not tell you that it is you who will put us to sleep, my baby. It is you who will rock your father and feed your mother. We were dehumanized before being born. It is us who have last names that built the waiting rooms at airport security and the faces deemed untrustworthy without a fresh shave and a fake smile. It is you will humanize us. You will soften our outlines to strangers. Who were Joseph and Mary without Jesus? Just two Arabs. I will tell you that we love our Lebanese mountains and Palestinian hills, so deeply, that they mistook us for stones. We were so identified with the olive and cedar trees, they thought us inanimate. Unalive. A land without a people. They didn’t realize that to us, the two are interchangeable. Not only do we know the land but the land knows us. We are the land and the land is us. Its holiness and grime cannot be dispelled from us. That’s like asking a pine tree to spit up the very seed it came from. That’s like asking me which cell of yours I first grew, when the truth is, you were projected all at once, dead before you were alive and autonomous before you were ever mine. Love, your mother, and inshallah your friend, Liane * Letter to the Unliving My grandmother, sitt el-kul, Teta Salima... They exploded the home you were forced to leave, the home I never visited, never fell asleep in before you could cover me with a blanket. Gaza is a tombstone. The sea is a silent witness. I got my sweetness from you, the sweetness they mistook for weakness, the sweetness that decays teeth and rots insides, that leaves gaping holes where trespassers can come in. You’re lucky you’re not alive to see this. It’s only us that NYtimes characterizes with “murderous fury.” Not our colonizers, not the guests we took in sweetly saying “no no, stay another night. Of course you’re tired after the Holocaust.” They get to be the victors of history. The winners of the Sadness Olympics. We put date-filled sweets on their plates and covered them with powdered sugar. They put us in open-air prisons and danced in front of the prison bars. “Savages,” while they tucked a strand of hair behind your ear, “Dirty infidels,” while they tore your laundry down from the clothing line and prepared to move into your house. They had cut your water supply, so your hair was greasy and the laundry had been hung up to air without being washed. You did, in fact, feel like a savage. Feral and unclean, by their design. You were the granddaughter of a general. A man who wore a green velvet uniform and built a house of stone at the gates of Jerusalem. You’d burnt sage and camphor to keep the horse stalls clean and you’d never had a rat infestation...before this one. They told your father, the freedom fighter, that his weapons shipment had arrived. He was going to take back the laundry line, redraw the borders of Palestine. When he arrived to the alley to collect the shipment, there was a tank blocking his path. He was shot dead, they all were. The stones remain their silent witnesses to this day. A talisman, worn smooth by time and etched with serpentine numbers and letters sinks to the bottom of a spring that has never forgotten its name. It holds the magic spell for freedom. It lands behind my navel and is baptized by my amniotic fluid. I am of you, and you are of the same land as the Virgin Mother. Our holiness has survived this genocide, this time. Love, your granddaughter in this life and inshallah every life, Liane
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We are the land and the land is us. / Its holiness and grime cannot be dispelled from us.