death speaks to the child of the immigrant

By Adam Hamze

did your mother & father
really think that leaving
would keep you safe, from me

how foolish of them to think
i can’t drain the light
from all your sanctuaries

when your mother was twelve
she watched two men
murdered outside her home

when your father was fifteen
he cleared the road for a syrian convoy
as israeli jets painted the sky black with shrapnel

my decayed fingers clenching their necks
a mosaic of blood across my lips
from the sweet ceremony of war

this world does not leave me hungry
but i am never satisfied. not until my jagged teeth
have bits of you stuck between them

you arabs all look the same to me
taste the same, too. sweat the same fear
bleed the same despair

& isn’t that the purest kind of ancestry
a lineage of burials familiar enough
to become its own culture

the first time we were introduced
bullet holes dragged your eight year old eyes
across each building in downtown beirut

you watched your people’s blood spilling
from those scars until you were neck deep
in your ancestors’ sacrifice

you’ve been washing your hands ever since
haven’t you? you’ve been scrubbing them
hard enough to rip the brown off the skin

as if i can’t see straight through that ungodly color
as if i couldn’t find you anywhere
as if i’m not waiting for you to come back

so i can claw the light
from your body
make you into another offering

how proud you must be. born to a family
who made it out alive. but i do not forget.
i am always hungry. i am always watching

i am always drinking someone’s blood
that tastes just like yours
& it’s never tasted better

last summer i took a couple thousand
that look just like your mother. & your father
& your brothers. & you. do you remember that

do you remember how little you ate those few months
do you remember how every time you blinked
the back of your eyelids replayed the image

of missiles dazzling their way into the hospitals
you haven’t slept the same since
but those are fireworks to me

that’s a celebration in my eyes.
each unloaded clip, the pop of champagne
each gut wrenching scream, a round of applause

each explosion, confetti
each war, a family reunion
every single catastrophe is my birthday

i am reborn through each life you give me
don’t you dare show up on this side of the earth again
i’ll turn you into one of those buildings

i’ll fill your skin with bullet holes
i’ll drain the blood from your mouth
i’ll grow stronger with each drop

i’ll make you into an artifact
i’ll sit front row at your funeral
i’ll laugh so loud the earth splits itself open
just to make room for your body

more alive than ever
By Adam Hamze

it is difficult for me to write about joy because of the way death demands my attention. forces my gaze into his ancient eyes. withdraws all the honey from my tongue & leaves me full of the oldest kind of sickness. but today, as the twelve of us sit at this dining room table meant to seat only four, we are released back into the wild paradise of our survival by the smell of my grandmother’s cooking. i turn my head away from death & his plagued existence. i take the sweetness back & feel it pulse through my skin until i am glowing & bursting & home, finally. i look to my cousin. i look to my father. i look to my brother. i look to my grandmother. i look to my three great aunts who i met for the first time this afternoon & marvel at how their unfiltered mouths produce the same laugh as my six year old cousin & that is our soundtrack & we do not listen to the newscast clawing its way out of the living room because the only story for today is this rice & these grape leaves & that lentil soup & if we have these things we will always have the steadiness our heartbeats find when they are in the same room. together we are fearless. we are not the weight inside the casket. we are not the home for the bullet. we are not the children of martyrs. we are the laughter loud enough to steal the thunder’s glory & in this moment the rubble is just rubble & the bullets are just bullets & death is so jealous of our love that he takes more & more of us by the minute. but the dead are not dead. they are living in the spaces between these tired fingers. we close our fists & our loved ones are back home & death is a distant memory begging to be remembered. today we do not see death. we see the light erupting from each others’ unbreakable spirit, the way the sun erupts from the mediterranean every single morning. & my god, aren’t we unstoppable & my god, aren’t we free & my god, aren’t we staying that way & my god, isn’t this holiness exactly what we deserve?

Adam Hamze is a first generation Arab-American poet & journalist at the University of Texas at Austin. He loves coffee, the outdoors & his people. He hopes you’re having a wonderful day.