Bulletin: Their Faces
(Arabic: El Um: the mother. Em-ma: Mama. Ummi: Mommie)
I sat those days before those boys,
their nineteen faces tacked to the board.
I didn’t know what to do, their thirty eight eyes
pinned at the heart of my town.
Who cut them out, tacked them here? Why?
Love thy enemy? Or
We sipped our coffees, their faces stared at us.
We read the news. I knew the danger, ever growing,
of knowing it. They boarded the planes, they gave up
their only lives
to tell us. I heard again and again
my people, even the poet screaming,
make no mistake they would kill us all!
But morning after morning with my cookie and latte,
their faces hovered in our bakery aroma.
My eyes began to see us through theirs, their only faces
they gave up. Their mouths began to speak
a language I understood
Em-ma. Ummie. Ummm.
Make no mistake, I know
they took ours lives too. Why
would they not? An eye for an eye
is required of sides.
As the days and weeks went by, as the summer fog cleared
to winter clarity, as our perpetual war against them continued, despicable
but predictable as the seasons, they were every morning at our breakfast table,
each as familiar as any of us with our particular personality
and tragic story
how in the shock and awe
they found again the innocence they knew in their mother’s arms
How in the rage they rediscovered themselves, our
So one morning, come spring, I took them down from the board,
afraid of who was seeing me. Afraid more
of diminishing my community by depriving it of their eyes,
of desecrating the holy altar of their faces. But by then
I could not bear for anyone who might enter our family room
to defile them. It felt like
taking them down off the cross, like
the other Marys taking Mary’s son down for her,
swathing him in spices, ointments and clean linen
and laying him in the new tomb
no one had ever laid in before.
It sounded like Um
(for my Palestinian family from Nazareth for 2000 years)