memory |  jim saliba


 

for june

1
when
the young man
his head covered and beard close cropped
recites the koran in resonant arabic
water pours from my left eye

2
at thirteen
i perform in a play
for the first time
the reviewer leaves the final a off my last name
leaves it arab sounding
not just arab
january nineteen eighty
we joke that
we hope that
no one will bomb the theater thinking that
an iranian
acts here
i laugh

my grandmother tells
of when my greatgrandfather
a young man
blows up
he does not touch her or her mother
but
smashes all the furniture in the house
to pieces

after the oklahoma city bombing
british officials detain
an arab american
in heathrow airport
who matches a federal profile of bombers
a single man flying alone to the middle east

the bathroom doors where i grow up
bear the scars
of my father
a young man
who
chases his brother through the house
breaks through the door with his fist

after the oklahoma city bombing
police arrest
three arab men
raid their dallas apartment
seize boxes of belongings
calendars clothes phone numbers

my father
home from college
fights with my grandmother
storms from the house
she follows him
grabs the car keys from his hand
not with that temper you dont
she says
he glares at her
walks ten miles to the river without stopping

after the oklahoma city bombing
f b i agents search for
two arab men
in blue jogging suits

3
when i see an arab man
i see my fathers anger
the pieces of my greatgrandfathers furniture

4
the water pours from my eyes
across my face
soaks my clothes
fills the confines of the room
bursts over the hillside
floods the meadows and the mountains of the country
erodes my fear of my anger / erodes
my fear of being seen as the terrorist who would not care
about killing one hundred sixty eight people / or even
a childcare center full of children / washes
across the oceans
all the way to lebanon
all the way to palestine
to reveal / the
revolutionary
the
strong
brave
arab
i would
one day
hope
to become

5/1998


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