You don’t know Zakia?
She is in grave number forty over three, over there.
They put my name on her mud-formed stone and
when I went to see her on that rainy afternoon, my shoes became stuck in a soupy quick sand which pulled me into the city of the always awake (those who no longer yawn after a long day’s labor, or close their ears to dull the screeching sirens of the bombs)
Did you know that Zakia hid in the cavern on the edge of al-Qusoor hill during that summer when the refugees outgrew their stay?
Zakia whose heart split when her sons outgrew it.
Remember, on the day that her children decided to migrate, she cried bullets into her own eyes.
“When would they stop looking for refuge?” she thought. If only she had accepted her life in the tents of the shelters of Nablus, her young ones wouldn’t have been fated to a life of perpetual searching for a home. “Isn’t the tent a home” she would ask herself “and the cavern a home, and even no home is a home?”
She would ask them to stay and then plead,
and then scream,
and then whisper,
and then pray,
and then imagine. Don’t you remember?
When she married the orphan, she knew that her life would be harder because being orphaned meant that he, her husband, was homeless. Why? Well, I would hear stories about the way that his stepfather murdered his father in order to marry his mother- like a movie-(Aren’t movies always real?)
We are talking about Zakia, though, the one who would eventually stop walking because she no longer could bear the path- the movement hither and thither, the search.
She lost the desire to walk because she wanted to fly…This is true, mind you.
I saw her after she went into the city that no longer tires. She held her son in one hand and extended the other, and she flew over lush hills, over the olive groves and the figged valleys… Oh, it was a sight!
It was as if she was forty years younger, with dark black hair flowing about
and her son, blonde and tall.
He was so very gifted, but you should know that his body sacrificed itself, so his mind and heart could grow to twice their size.
He was amazing, you should see. He had a photographic memory, knowing everyone, learning everything, and even loving everyone so profoundly because he could remember the times when they made him laugh or the hard times when they would be kind.
Yes, yes, he would love it when we would all gather; he would even run to the store to buy us our favorite drink- orange Miranda (what a beautiful name!).His name was Mahmoud and oh how he was praiseworthy.
Zakia cared for him when he grew ill. She would feed him, even when she could no longer stand long enough to cook her lentil soup. She would say that there was a sanctuary in her son’s eyes. When he decided to leave her for the city that does not sleep, she lost the resting place that she had found in the comfort of his gaze.
She grew restless then. That was when she decided to fly.
Zakia flies even now, you see, as beautiful as she was when I would spend hours walking through the crevices of her face or putting my forehead on her compassionate hand.
She was my root, and my route back home.
She was my home.
Now that she has decided to follow in the path of Ami Mahmoud, I am homeless, destined to follow in the steps of her son, my father,
to keep searching and longing and roaming…
until I, too, can bear to stand no longer.
IBTISAM ABUJAD is an instructor and doctoral student at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. Her poetry has been published in a number of literary journals, including Cream City Review and Blue Minaret.
Featured image: Photograph by Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash.