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Memory of Figment a Merely: Four Poems by Zaina Alsous

At this point I will disobey and say / you are free to go if you choose. Choice is a complicated part of describing / Palestinian heroes or terrorists.

Birth Right

To be read from right to left, after Marwa Helal

?memory of figment a merely not are you know you do How

monthly escape linings my
paradise of ink the is blood this
penumbra of cadence the
residue a leave unbloomed the even
inheritance of figment a is violence
refused the and refusal of inheritance
screaming alive out came I
pleases he as leaves and enters God
stories ghost dispute not do I
you tell only will I
screaming alive out came I
story the into written not is body my
means this commencement of
enter to yet have I
return before space lent the
ر before space the
*prayer mourning a in
exist you know you do how mother my ask I
daughter the am I says she
and Aminah of daughter Latifah of
fugitives harbor wombs these
want still I recover to want still I
blue the like rotation crescent in
precursor a not is return dancer
evidence to
say Aviv Tel of resorts the
“birthright your is it home come”
beginning 1 as only Home use I
exploration theoretical a of
inquiry cartographic a
dust of fragrance the into
grocery the from carnations red steal I
pollination no is there violence without
return only can I crime of product the
settler is name my favor the
score a improvising *here
outside fall notes
space of


* إِنَّا للهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعون
*هنا ; بين الماضي والحاضر

The Arabic is a poetic form invented by Marwa Helal, first featured in Winter Tangerine in November 2016, “that includes an Arabic letter with an Arabic footnote, and an Arabic numeral, preferably written right to left as the Arabic language is, and vehemently rejects you if you try to read it left to right.”


I can no longer pretend the flowers are enough,
flowers in ink, flowers on plates, flowers in my shoe
laces, candied flowers, 1-800 FLOWERS, balloon,
birthday, funeral flowers, marshmallow flowers staining
the milk pink. Flowers in my mother’s hijab frame the smile
lines grown deeper; the long term health effects of appearing
gentle in a hostile setting. Have you read the instructions on tigers?
They may attack the unfamiliar. Remain calm, move slowly,
adapt as the tremor of leaves. To survive is to convince
the predator you are not really there.
I can no longer pretend slowly alive, kneeling in the soil
is enough. A nation of neon plastic straws, machines
on the surface of Mars, reminds its citizens to be patient.
Slowly, when the bill passes, slowly through diversity
training, slowly through handshake and t-shirt and apology
and apology and apology and apology and apology. I take a knife
to the dam, bathing in the leaks. There are teeth
in my laughter. Imagine a life of tectonic distortion: gaping, wet,
magma, colliding with, really there.
I scream my name in the pool, it is almost enough to hear the terror
I can be. Remember when discovering fire,
the heat of progress pairs a leather palm with new
ways to eat and be eaten.


A hijacked plane in 1969 lands in Damascus. This means a plane was unable to fly
away, to Tel Aviv. I read about the incident in the autobiography of Leila Khaled.
This book is out of print. This means it is difficult to find her first hand account in text
though much is written about her. I wanted to write a poem about Leila: a hero,
or terrorist, depending on who you ask. Dareen is the name of a woman,
who lives under house arrest. This means she is unable to leave her home.
Israeli officials categorize her as a threat, she calls herself a poet.
The speaker is an important part of a poem. A rule of poetry, try
not to let the reader out of a poem. At this point I will disobey and say
you are free to go if you choose. Choice is a complicated part of describing
Palestinian heroes or terrorists. The Israeli and Palestinian conflict is studied
in class. The word conflict in English, defined as “a serious disagreement”.
If you are still here, doesn’t that sound fair? Two sides, equally at fault,
each making a choice. Three generations later, I still do not know
how to explain choices. A place was left behind. A place I have never seen.
This means I still do not know how to write myself
into existence. Three boys form a tributary of blood, on a beach in Gaza, elsewhere
a contained border, a family of bones, without broth; these will be described as incidents.
The difference between violence and incidents in a conflict,
depends on the speaker. What word would you choose to begin?
Nakba translates as “Catastrophe”. Ha’atzmaut, “Independence”.
Though Hebrew and Arabic share yawm or yohm,
for day. Alan Dershowitz and other Israeli historians argue
it was a choice of Palestinians to leave the land in 1948.
Argue, a word used when choosing an explanation about why things are.
History is a collection of choices. I have also inherited memories.
Pink prayer beads on the counter. Creases in white fabric, black threads
embroidering live skin. Memories do not always obey
the lines of history’s choices. My grandfather fled the land
when he was eight years old, leaving his mother at home.
This means he never saw her again. Many will continue to argue
leaving and never returning is a choice, not a violence.
A poem, depending on the speaker, an act of incitement
to violence. Concrete left in the throats of children, a mother’s final glance,
a segregated beach, a segregated sun; it is all just
a great misunderstanding, a conflict. I have changed my mind.
I am leaving
you and this poem behind. A choice, I choose, this time.


the archipelagos sinking
season while placenta
welcome to here
or miracles
Kiraman Katibin
twelve scratches
degrees to go
is our world gone?
skirts of la tierra
gun resin on my lashes
Aries grows so fast
stars shrivel under puberty
morning to pray
our dead are
in circumference first
and blood memory
what is now
start on a fresh page
right shoulder
on the walls of solitary
full circle or minutes
a bay of wolves
I want to be a boy, again
Atlas weeping
dregs in the cup call me
is our world gone?
Fajr, paint the skulls sugar
clementine of the growing
ripen the break
a return and a funeral
a pending list of sins
lift your pencils to the steam
left shoulder
three hundred and sixty
til the last meal passes
landing on the out
I want blooms in my hands
over sidereal film
barren, again
wake, a conjugation of mourn
the lights are on