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chrisapap – naomi shihab nye’s “blood” lyrics


“a true arab knows how to catch a fly in his hands,”
my father would say. and he’d prove it
cupping the buzzer instantly
while the host with the swatter stared

in the spring our palms peeled like snakes
true arabs believed watermelon could heal fifty ways
i changed these to fit the occasion

years before, a girl knocked
wanted to see the arab
i said we didn’t have one
after that, my father told me who he was
“shihab”—”shooting star”—
a good name, borrowed from the sky
once i said, “when we die, we give it back?”
he said that’s what a true arab would say

today the headlines clot in my blood
a little palestinian dangles a toy truck on the front page
homeless fig, this tragedy with a terrible root
is too big for us. what flag can we wave?
i wave the flag of stone and seed
table mat stitched in blue

i call my father, we talk around the news
it is too much for him
neither of his two languages can reach it
i drive into the country to find sheep, cows
to plead with the air:
who calls anyone civilized?
where can the crying heart graze?
what does a true arab do now?