we were Palestinian in every timeline

Illustration of the silhouettes of adult bodies with a child suspended in the middle in a globe. On the sides, images of bodies within bodies. The background is a kufiyah pattern
Art by Kristina Closs


by George Abraham

Let’s say god is every failed history of speculation – say history 
is the space between two lovers endlessly out of reach –  

we feigned divinity & it got us this far – this is how I know 
we were Palestinian in every timeline – ancestored from earth 

to earth, our infinite loops of breath are how the universe loves itself 
back, perpetual – proof that every love language boils down 

to recursion – the only country I can surely Return to is a people
who sent the timelines spiraling with their stubborn & earth

-laced fists. None of this is speculative – there are people inside 
the people we were born into & all of them survived 

so many unspeakables. In this life, we will cry over foaming
qahwa as you tell me only one of us can Return to the country

we call home, before distancing ourselves a plane ride we’ll never 
take. You tell me all will be well. Say, we know the shattering of space

-time’s topology as inheritance; in this way, we’re chasing 
each other     though neither of us are chasing     back – 


for more of George’s poems, check out Birthright


I wash her hands with summer rain.

Illustration by Kristina Closs

“Taproot and Cradle” by Khaled Mattawa (1964-)

Evening coffee, and my mother salts
her evening broth—not equanimity,
but the nick of her wrist—

and my mother bakes bread,
and my mother hobbles knees locked,
and my mother carries the soft stones of her years.

Fists balled in my pocket,
riding the century’s drift,
I carry a wish and a wound.

It’s raining a noisy frost,
the inhabitants’ cruel happy laughs,
their sighs and curses,

small upheavals that slide
from their bellies,
down to their freezing toes..

And the city trudges, and night
loosens its reins, a stolen bulldozer,
a tank full of clowns.

Who’s calling
my name
from the window now?

She touches her hair—
She caresses her beauty
like the coffin of a child.

O pen of late arrivals.
O knife of darkened temples.
O my scurrying, my drunken snakes. 

I wash her hands with summer rain.
I remember the killed enemy.
I remember my good friends.

I once found myself in a peaceful country

For this last day of National Poetry Month, here’s a poem by one of my favorite poets, Ilya Kaminsky (1977-), from one of my favorite new collections of the year. Seek out a copy of this devastatingly piercing and tender masterpiece–you will not be disappointed.


“In a Time of Peace”

Inhabitant of earth for fortysomething years
I once found myself in a peaceful country. I watch neighbors open

their phones to watch
a cop demanding a man’s driver’s license. When a man reaches for his wallet, the cop
shoots. Into the car window. Shoots.

It is a peaceful country.

We pocket our phones and go.
To the dentist,
to pick up the kids from school,
to buy shampoo
and basil.

Ours is a country in which a boy shot by police lies on the pavement
for hours.

We see in his open mouth
the nakedness
of the whole nation.

We watch. Watch
others watch.

The body of a boy lies on the pavement exactly like the body of a boy–

It is a peaceful country.

And it clips our citizens’ bodies
effortlessly, the way the President’s wife trims her toenails.

All of us
still have to do the hard work of dentist appointments,
of remembering to make
a summer salad: basil, tomatoes, it is a joy, tomatoes, add a little salt.

This is a time of peace.

I do not hear gunshots,
but watch birds splash over the backyards of the suburbs. How bright is the sky
as the avenue spins on its axis.
How bright is the sky (forgive me) how bright.