Searching for Words – Poems

The Palestine Chronicle is pleased to feature the work of two poets, Samah Sabawai and Jehan Bseiso.

Searching for Words

By Samah Sabawi

Gaza…I search desperately
For words… for definitions
To tell the story of ammunitions
Exploding in a child’s body
I try to shout my indignation
But I am lost in vocabulary
Drowned in phrases as old as me
And I am as old as the Occupation
I need new words

How hard it is to find

Definitions that can restore

Humanity to a small strip of land

Along the Mediterranean shore

Siege, starvation collective misery

Familiar words in my head they linger

Bombs fall from the sky every day

Powerless words I can’t use any longer

I need new words

“Palestine is occupied….”
These are now hollow words…
“Palestinians are oppressed…”
These are now daily words…
“Palestinians are dispossessed”
These are now…tired words
“Palestinians….have a right to exist”
Words often spoken…worn out words
I need new words

Gaza…my home city
My earliest memory of Jasmine flowers and meramiah tea
My first taste of sour lemon dipped in salt
My first climb on an almond tree
Gaza, my destiny
My father’s heart sky and sea
My mother’s first love
My sister’s first breath
My pride and dignity

Gaza is under fire
Obliterated by hate
Strangled by a demonic desire
To erase my history
Gaza is in pieces
And I…the writer…
I’m speechless
What language can possibly save me?
What words?


Brainstorming Nakba

By Jehan Bseiso

At curious four I asked my mother why Superman did not speak the same language I did
She told me that
Our cartoon hero is a little boy forever ten
His hands clasped behind his back, invisible handcuffs

She told me I had to learn another alphabet, another geography,
In the Big Yellow Atlas, for kids, full of pictures
We stenciled in your awkward shape into maps that didn’t even want you
We had to learn your name in their language

They told me I spoke funny.
So I rinsed my accent at school; madraseh instead of madrasa
I read about diaspora and exile and power structures
Without knowing what they meant

So you’re American? On paper
And Jordan? Is what I know
And Gaza? An old wives tale
We are bastard children of hyphens and supplements and sentences that start with
 Originally I’m from…
At home,
Baba counted in dead bodies, in ratios, and for breakfast we had
Nostalgia and symbols
We read Kanafani, Darwiche and Said
When we found tongues
We learned to speak from the margins of pages,
From the periphery

Maybe this is Freud’s “oceanic feeling”.
A veritable storehouse in the unconscious
To be from a place and not know the place
There are simpler ways of being in the world, I’m told.
Still I choose Za’tar and Shatta and this awkward Fatha. 

– Jehan Bseiso, American born Palestinian-Jordanian poet, has recently completed her Masters thesis in Literature from the American University of Beirut. She is now working with Doctors Without Borders in Amman, Jordan. You can contact her on:

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