From the Diary
of an Almost-
Hanan Mikha'il 'Ashrawi
Tomorrow, the bandages
will come off. I wonder
will I see half an orange,
half an apple, half my
with my one remaining eye?
I did not see the bullet
but felt its pain
exploding in my head.
His image did not
vanish, the soldier
with a big gun, unsteady
hands, and a look in
I could not understand.
If I can see him so clearly
with my eyes closed,
it could be that inside our heads
we each have one spare set
to make up for the ones we lose.
Next month, on my birthday,
I'll have a brand new glass eye,
maybe things will look round
and fat in the middle ---
I've gazed through all my marbles,
they made the world look strange.
I hear a nine-month-old
has also lost an eye,
I wonder if my soldier
shot her too --- a soldier
looking for little girls who
look him in the eye ---
I'm old enough, almost four,
I've seen enough of life,
but she's just a baby
who didn't know any better.
When I Was
Translated by Stephen Mitchell
When I was a child
grasses and masts stood at the seashore,
and as I lay there
I thought they were all the same
because all of them rose into the sky above me.
Only my mother's words went with me
like a sandwich wrapped in rustling waxpaper,
and I didn't know when my father would come back
because there was another forest beyond the clearing.
Everything stretched out a hand,
a bull gored the sun with its horns,
and in the nights the light of the streets caressed
my cheeks along with the walls,
and the moon, like a large pitcher, leaned over
and watered my thirsty sleep.
Translated by Vivian Eden
My grandmother wouldn't let us leave rice on our plates.
Instead of telling us about hunger in India
and children with swollen bellies
who would have opened their mouths wide
for each grain,
she would drag all the leftovers to the centers of our plates
with a screeching fork and, nearly in tears,
tell how the uneaten rice would rise to the heavens
to complain to God.
Now she's dead and I imagine the joy of the encounter
between her false teeth and the angels with flaming swords
at the gates of rice paradise.
They spread, beneath her feet, a carpet of red rice
and the yellow rice sun beats down on the lovely garden
of little white grains.
My grandmother spreads olive oil on their skins
and slips them one by one into the cosmic pots
of God's kitchen. Grandma, I feel like telling her,
rice is a seashell that shrunk, and like it
you rose from the sea.
The water of my life.
Translated by Lami
The white-wool knit jacket
With a decorative pin
Which my grandpa and grandma sent me from Kovel
When I was two
And it was sent to the communal storeroom
And I never wore it, not even once,
Grandma and Grandpa were murdered there
A whole Jewry destroyed
And I searched throughout my life
For a white-wool knit jacket
Which my grandma knit for me and decorated
With a pin
And went to the post office and sent it
In a package which my grandpa had packed lovingly
A small white hand-knitted jacket
For a little girl of two
All my life
And cannot find it.
Gladys Alam Saroyan
I have always known my place. "When I grow up, I want to become the wife of the president," I said. I also wanted to write books, drive a jeep, and have a dog as a best friend.
That I kept to myself.
§ § §
"Cover her face," my grandmother told my parents on our way to the beach. "She is already too dark."
"Where did you get such black hair?" she said, with obvious concern.
"From you, grandmother."
§ § §
"It must have confused you to get such attention just because of your sex," I told my brother, my mother's son.
"You must have cried laughing at such stupidity that you were better simply because you were a boy."
"I believed it," my brother said. I have always wanted to topple my brother from his throne. I read, I intellectualized, I socialized, I schemed, I yelled, I cried, and in the end, I couldn't even compare.
§ § §
My brother was baptized in Jerusalem. A special boy, a special place. I was also baptized, with my sister, by "Father Potatoes," so-called because he was really fat. Or at least, that is all my mother remembers from that joyous, local, and double event.
§ § §
There was money to be made at our dining room table. My mother put sterilized coins in her delicious kibbe dish. The trick was to pick the kibbe with the hidden coin. I never won. My brother won every time.
Later I realized the game was fixed. When confronted by a grown-up me, my mother didn't see what the fuss was about. "Your brother was a sickly boy who needed nourishment."
§ § §
My brother was an overweight bully.
§ § §
"But we love you," my parents said. "We love you very much." I know, but they loved me as a girl.
§ § §
The boy within me was stuck with me. Not till much later did I find out that the boy within was really a girl.