by Edward Salem
My short, pot-bellied uncle takes me up to the roof of his house at the top of the hilly village to show me the far-reaching landscape. Past strings of his daughter’s laundry, and pots of measly tomato plants swaying in the warm wind, he points to hills and hazy clusters of light, quizzing my memory. I correctly name the nearby villages and Ramallah. I see the spread of glinting amber light and name it, Jerusalem. He jibes that I don’t know what to call the bright white cluster between the villages—the new settlement, middle-class villas with manicured lawns patrolled by scrawny husbands, machine guns slung over their backs like acoustic guitars. They’re making a fine Swiss cheese out of Palestine, my uncle quips. It’s almost ready to eat.
The Palestinian Chair
by Edward Salem
God said (and already you can tell I’m making this up), If you lift a rock, I am there. If you lift a finger, I am there. If Blackwater rips out your fingernails, I am there. God said, If you’re strapped into the contraption the Israelis told the CIA they call the Palestinian Chair, hands tied to your ankles, forcing you to lean forward in a crouch, forcing all of your weight onto your thighs as if you’ve been trapped in the act of kneeling to pray, knees suspended above the floor, arms pinned below your legs, blindfolded, your head collapsed into your chest, wheezing and gasping for air, a pool of urine at your feet, too tired to cry, but in too much pain to remain silent, and the chair locks you into a permanent squat from which you can’t recover, I am there. God said, when twenty million Yemenis are silhouettes under pallid veils of skin dying of starvation in 2016, 2020, 2024, 2028, 2032 while you scarf down lamb agadah at Yemen Café in Hamtramck, I am there. After life is over, you realize that You were there. For all of it. It was all you.