Ancestry and Tradition

I recall my experiences with identity and analyze the genocides in the Middle East from the perspective of tradition and culturalism. My intention is to illustrate to the reader what it is like to identify as Arab.

Cedars

my parents grew up 

in a small town called 

Batroun

where the song of the beach

could be heard across every enclave

 

the kids spent their evenings

picking sour olives from the same vines

that their great grandparents 

grew when they were young

in a backyard that great-great grandparents

built when they were young

 

the families spent their mornings

hiking with the ancestral Cedars

over 1000 years old 

that are meek and plentiful

with fruits of phoenician history 

 

my mother would wake at dawn

to the call of God 

coming from the bell tower 

and the chanting nuns

in the monastery 

 

when my parents were eight,

the country became amassed

with a patriotic fervor

as militias plunged the state

into a civil war

 

this is when the bombs began to rain down:

buildings crumbled 

under the weight of explosives

and the country crumbled under 

under the weight of political gridlock

and when the smoke finally blew away

standing glorious with outstretched arms

protecting the spirits of those who founded this land

great lumbering podies of emerald pine

were the Cedars 

 

 

Haiku  

Being lebanese, 

I am proud, waving my flag:

Red stripes with bold cedar

 

 

Camp stories 

While we huddled around the flame

My friends from Antiochian camp 

Recount passed-down stories 

Of relatives who fled their home country

 

For something greater 

Than they will ever be responsible for:

Terror, civil war, persecution,

Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Iran

 

It is times like these

Where I am lucky to consider even visiting home

 

 

A Formal Apology  

I am sorry

I feel the need to clarify 

That I am Arab 

Every chance that I can 

 

I thought you were Hispanic?

I am sorry 

That I refuse to bubble the box

On the SAT 

labeled white

 

It’s just a box? What’s the big deal?

 

I am sorry

That I am sometimes reluctant to laugh

When someone jokingly 

Associates me with terrorism

 

Did you cause 9/11?

 

I am sorry 

That if a person calls me Muslim, 

I must correct them

And explain I am orthodox 

 

Where is your hijab?

 

I am so sorry

 these little things bother me 

But it would bother you too, 

If no one ever understood your identity

 

 

Us vs. Them

In my culture 

If there isn't God, 

There is no reason to walk a path at all 

This is an unchanging idea 

 

The saying is 

There is one pair of footsteps in the sand

Because god carries you 

the rest of the way 

 

The path I am to walk is not divergent

It does not shift to my desires

It stays rigid 

To the teachings of ancient tradition

 

It is taboo to follow the same path

That my friends may take 

Or stop 

To frolic with the flowers 

 

Traditions are the vertebrae of every Arab family

Remove it, and the spine distorts itself

At least that's what we believe 

Without fault

 

We believe it so strongly 

That any divergence to change 

Creates us 

And them

 

 

Habibi

Habibi means “my love” in arabic

A term of endearment 

That a mother may call her daughter

Or what friends may call another 

 

In the Middle East, habibi has become forgotten

And replaced with terms like

War, revolution, and revolt 

They are not like us, they cant be here

 

This separation is death’s most loyal servant

It feeds us ideas

Like an apple from a tree

And we no longer see others as human

 

Places like Syria have forgotten the word

 Habibi 

And instead spread slaughter 

Onto the streets where children once laughed 

 

Sunni and Shia no longer coexist

The chess game that is now Syrian genocide;

A black and white game

Where there is no checkmate 

 

Palestine is no longer a place

And the ghosts who were once there

Have been buried 

Under the campaigns of Hamas 

 

Before building the wall

Between religions and identities,

it is now more important than ever

That the Middle East remembers habibi

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