The Familiar Stranger – A Poem

(Photo: Supplied)

By Aida Qasim
It was neither an exceptional

nor particularly mundane morning

but I was not the same
The bashful sun

cautiously lifted the white shroud

hovering above Ramallah’s towering skyline
Memories nurtured and cajoled like a precocious child

have abandoned me for a suitcase of wind and clouds that I collected on the
shores of Akka
I am alone at the Bridge
Everyone has a script in this bizarre play

except for me,

even the soldiers that had intimidated me seemed as though they’d performed
this act many times before

but i

…insignificant as an extra on a stage
A labyrinth of conflicting images

resistant to linear logic jump at me like a hungry Chita

I elbow my way up a crowded bus to deliver a final appeal to my memories:

Have you become too indifferent to notice our estrangement?!

Do you not see that your silence is a crime against my humanity?!
A Familiar Stranger

looking at me as if I had lost my mind asks, “where you from?”

– ignoring his prying question, “is this bus for 3arab only?”, I ask.

“We are all 3arab, what else would we be?”, he says, while pointing in the
direction of the Jett bus a few meters away;

“You go there with the ajaneb”, said the contemptuous stranger

Though such a rhetorical question deserved contempt, I make no attempts at
taming my racing heart and flailing tongue:
AJANEB IS A DESIGNATION FOR OUTSIDERS!

NOT FOR THE:

EXILED TO EXILES WITHIN EXILES/MEMORIES MARKED BY NUMBERS/ TEDIUM
PUNCTUATED BY FOREBODING/JOYS DISMEMBERED BY CATASTROPHES/TRIUMPHS AGAINST
ALL ODDS SUBJECTED TO SCRUTINY/NARRATIVES LAID BARE BEFORE THE FORENSIC’S
TABLE!
I walk away from MY forced exile

to a self imposed exile:

a window seat towards the back, away from polite exchanges;

windows are for travelers who prefer the company of trees.

My handbag – tired from the weight of my passport and the impertinent piece
of paper intrusively squatting within its flaps that reads: a temporary
stay permit for[unwilling]foreigners – plops next to me
Flipping through my phone’s photo gallery where I had methodically
documented the moon’s tango with the sky in an effort to cheat
forgetfulness (forgetfulness is the final surrender),

I recall an air of relief that filled Abu Shaleh’s taxi when we sped out of
Ramallah’s empty streets earlier that morning,

fleeing from one diaspora to another to capture the image of a lone olive
tree of 23 harvests ago
Repentant tears leap from the depth of my heart, wresting my uncertain
sovereignty

I apologize for what I have done
I am the Familiar Stranger.

– Aida Qasim is a Palestinian American social worker and poet living in Princeton, New Jersey. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. 

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