Who Shall Remember How? Palestinian Poets Respond

Who Shall Remember How? Palestinian Poets Respond
DEEMA K. SHEHABI, Jessica Abughattas, Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, and Sara Abou Rashed have contributed their original poems for this collection of Palestinian poetry at the Los Angeles Review of Books. They each belong to an ancestral tradition of Palestinian poetry that has thrived despite 75 years of Israel’s military violence and cultural erasure. These poems are in conversation with the work of people across Palestine and in the diaspora, and it is my hope as a reader and editor of poetry to bring you their voices, celebrate the beauty and power of their language, and acknowledge their pain and grief in the context of the genocide their people face. I stand with these poets in a call for a ceasefire, an end to the violence and oppression. I am honored to have curated these poems and encourage you to read more of their important work beyond this feature.

—Elizabeth Metzger




Against Content Warnings

We stopped
the dead

but they


I refuse to give
my horror

the intimacy
of a name.


If a word

who shall

Samia Halaby, Black Is Beautiful, 1969. Oil on canvas, 167.5 x 167.5 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Ayyam Gallery.




The State of —

Noun gerund of the verb (to journey)
A setting out, a departure
A boy’s voice calls out from beneath what used to be
the second story of a house
I am here he cries can anyone hear me?
I am here and the night sky is sleeping on my chest

Noun gerund of the verb (to leave)
An exodus, a detachment
A father has gone in search of bread
A baker has gone in search of flour
A mother has gone in search of a cloud
A people have gone
A world in each of them

Noun gerund of the verb (to travel)
A parting, a demise
A girl steps on top of the walls of what used to be
the third story of a house
I am searching for the sea she cries
Has anyone seen it? It used to live in my window.

Samia Halaby, Marble, 1980. Oil on Linen Canvas, 92 x 122 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Ayyam Gallery.





There is a part a past participle of me
at peace. In fifteen months live four places.

My love is a crag, a swamp, the depths.
A cave is dark and warm like my heart.

The heat swarms, won’t budge, won’t create a budget
for my heart which I dole out

in finite sums until I’m whole. My whole heart
isn’t interested in collecting interest.

Instead of a heart I carry a debt, a deficit
a deftness. I am a cavity for potential, a vial

of future substance. Sustenances. Sentences
I wrap around myself in chains

blocks, block chains, encrypted, inscribed,
indiscriminate spreading anger. Anger

has a motive, a number, anger has a dial
that winds, hums, releases like a spindle

like a spine unraveling, renaming, replacing,
placating. An absence of a spine is a job

an occupation. I vocate to purchase creature
comforts to make everyone

comfortable to make them see me
so they can see my worth it seems like I only

matter I’m only worth what I can sell
my time to sell the other workers it’s called hard

work and when it pays off, when the ticker
finally ticks my way, when they eat my

hair then I will be dead then
I will be totally preoccupied.

Rosalind Nashashibi, Electrical Gaza, 2015. Cinematography by Emma Dalesman, production by Kate Parker. Digital video still transferred from 16mm film, animation, color, sound 17:53 minutes. Courtesy of the artist and GRIMM Amsterdam, London, New York.




Palestine Sunbird

The city: a tightrope of eyes as we sat on a bench beneath a row of birches.
Before your confession: sandhill cranes skimmed the lake,
moss-colored in light. Years later, we are hiking in a valley chiming
with golden poppies in early April. Where does this gushing come from?
When clouds disrobe the hill near the mountain, it occurs to me to kiss
the rain off your mouth. How to say your answer pulled a song of our lost country
from my throat? Back home in the evening, we step into a garden where ropes
of wisteria hang at eye level, and I inventory all objects withering
from your half appetite: decaying peaches in green bowls, drawings of heritage oaks
giving way to parking lots, brownish bougainvillea in planters.
Define avoidance, you say half-jokingly. I turn away, eyelashes threshing the air.



Samia Halaby (b. 1936, Jerusalem) is a leading abstract painter and an influential scholar of Palestinian art. Although based in the United States since 1951, Halaby is recognized as a pioneer of contemporary abstraction in the Arab world. Halaby has been collected by international institutions since the 1970s, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art (New York and Abu Dhabi); Yale University Art Gallery; National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; Art Institute of Chicago; Cleveland Museum of Art; Institut du Monde Arabe; and the British Museum.

Rosalind Nashashibi (b. 1973 in Croydon, United Kingdom) received her BA in painting from Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield (UK), in 1995, after which she attended the Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow (UK), where she received her MFA in 2000. As part of her master’s degree, Nashashibi participated in a three-month exchange program in Valencia, California (United States), at CalArts in 2000. Nashashibi became the first artist in residence at the National Gallery in London, after the program was reestablished in 2020. She was a Turner Prize nominee in 2017, and represented Scotland in the 52nd Venice Biennale. Her work has been included in Documenta 14, Manifesta 7, the Nordic Triennial, and Sharjah 10. She was the first woman to win the Beck’s Futures prize in 2003.



Featured image: Samia Halaby, Red Moon, 2015. Acrylic on linen canvas, 97 x 97 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Ayyam Gallery.

LARB Contributors

Sara Abou Rashed is a Palestinian poet, public speaker, and creator of the one-woman show A Map of Myself. Her poems appear in many publications, including the anthology A Land with a People (2021), the latest 9–12 English curriculum from McGraw Hill, Poetry Wales, Poetry Magazine, and The Rumpus, and are forthcoming in The Kenyon Review and The Nation. A former Poetry Fellow at the Vermont Studio Center, Sara holds an MFA from the University of Michigan and is currently working on her first book.
Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is a poet, essayist, and translator. She is the author of three books: Water & Salt (Red Hen, 2017), winner of the 2018 Washington State Book Award; Kaan and Her Sisters (Trio House, 2023); and Something About Living, winner of the 2022 Akron Prize for Poetry, forthcoming from University of Akron Press. For more about her work, visit lenakhalaftuffaha.com.
Jessica Abughattas is the author of Strip (University of Arkansas), which won the 2020 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize selected by Fady Joudah and Hayan Charara. Her poems appear in Guernica, The Yale ReviewLos Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. She is a Kundiman Fellow and co-chair for Southern California Kundiman. 
Deema K. Shehabi is a Palestinian poet, writer, and editor. Deema is the author of Thirteen Departures from the Moon (2011) and co-editor with Beau Beausoleil of Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here (2012), for which she received a Northern California Book Award. She’s also co-author of Diaspo/Renga (2014) with Marilyn Hacker and winner of the Nazim Hikmet poetry competition in 2018. Deema’s work has appeared widely in literary magazines and anthologies. For more information, please visit her website at Deema K. Shehabi.
Elizabeth Metzger is the author of Lying In (2023), as well as The Spirit Papers (2017), winner of the Juniper Prize for Poetry, and the chapbook Bed (2021). Her poems have been published in The New YorkerThe Paris ReviewPoetryAmerican Poetry ReviewThe Nation, and Poem-a-Day. Her essays have been published in Boston Review, Guernica, Conjunctions, PN Review, and Literary Hub, among others. She is a poetry editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books and lives in California.


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