Suheir Hammad

American-palestinian poet, author, performer, and political activist, born in Jordan.

Her parents fled from the Palestinian village Lydda (today; Israeli Lyd) under the Nakba in 1948,

first to the Gaza Strip, then to Jordan. In 1978, when Suheir was five years old, the family immigrated to  BrooklynNew York City.

 Hammad weaves the different identities 

– being a refugee, a Palestinian, a woman –

into her work, and creates common narratives of oppression, 

and, not to forget, narratives of strength and struggle against

the political insanity of this World.

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may i take your order?

 

I’m the main dish

walkin down the street

my face a menu

of first world delicacies

olive skin         almond eyes     bitter tongue

& my ears burnin w/comments days beyond

rude    crude   & lewd

men suck my titties in 

eyes poppin out big business heads

lickin their lips against

my thighs like i was some

cafe au lait ice cream

 

i must look spicy & exotic

cause he is wondering if i sell

my curry pussy

or lend it free

& if i’m as finger lickin good

as the liver his mama used to 

stew    fry       bake

for her little anemic boy

 

yeah i’m the

white boy’s spam

to be processed         diluted            canned

so his tender digestion can

take itbut i give it a

south of the border tang

w/jalapeno hips & guacamole looks

 

he stir fries me w/

questions like

            where you from

brooklyn

i mean originally

yeah    there’s no hidin i’m original recipe

 

from the region of

figs      lentils  pomegranates

but he wants to know

can he lick soy sauce

off my body

would i dance my

belly for him

shimmy and shake for his shiny penny

would i suck chocolate offa his

macdaddy macadamia nuts

can he soak me

in falafel oil

& drain milk & honey outta me

 

my brown eyes remind him

of the expensive chocolates he

used to steal from his mama’s purse

except mine refuse to melt

 

heg ets up real close

& whishes he had a dick 

for every hole in my body

chiiiilll

white boy

 

& just pray for one

 

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broken and beirut

 

no mistakes made here

these murders are precise

mathematical

these people blown apart                  burned alive

flesh and blood all mixed together

a sight no human being can take

 

and yet we take and take

desensitized to the sacred defamed

witness youth strap 40 lbs of

dynamite to sore bodies cause

we always return to what we know

and that’s war

we retuen over and over to it

sit at its feet to

remove stone shoes               bones and blues

 

don’t know what to do with visions

of blown up babies     so we

lamé nails and lame tongues

which should protest

love those who cannot

love us             hate ourselves and become

obsessed with puzzles

 

shifting through rubble                       we ask

where is the head that goes with this 7-year-old shoulder

shattered        this leg looks like it fits with this hip

this dead with that dead        cause they wear twin rings

on bloated purple hands

 

tired of talking fear and calling it life

being strong and getting

over shit          to prepare for more shit

 

(when my heart was broken i turned to the only dynamic i knew

more hurtful   my father)

 

we return to what we know

it’s 1996 and beirut all over again

this time the murdered are those who survived the last time

and this time’s survivors are preparing for the next time

when fire will rain down on heads bowed in prayer

 

 

i want to go home

not only to mama and baba

i want to go home to before me and

pain     bombs and war           before

loveless sex     poetry              and chocolate

 

i want to remember what i’ve never lived

a home within me      within us

where honey is offered from my belly

to sweeten babies’ breath     make boys moral

and girls strong

 

want to return to the belly of my honey

and feed myself earth

before 1996    1982    ’73       and ’48

before tv         race     marriage         and meat

 

return to what we’ve forgotten

what hunger has faked

return to the whiteness of black

to the drum     the hum          the sum of my parts

to god  the boiling in my belly

touch it taste  name it and

come back to here

 

come back       and make no mistake

be precise       get back to work

shifting through the rubble    mathematically

building a new day

with offerings of honey and memory

 

never forgetting

where we come from

where we’ve been

and how sweet honey

on the lips of survivors

 

 

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taxi

 

 

i

 

urban warrior                         i think we’re

too used to bottled water and soft ass wipes

street soldier not gettin taxis and little white ladies

claspin purses aint all it’s about

 

 

ii

 

in my father’s city

there’s a baby girl

whose beautiful brown eye

(centuries ago inspired poetry)

was eaten by a fat zionist rat

 

140 miles of 850,000 souls    gaza

stripped of humanity

the most people in the tiniest place anywhere

tired people with no place everywhere

open sewers carry the sweat of occupation into

the swollen bellies of babies

 

refugee camps that make you long for

the projects    these kids grow up bad angry murderous

justified           camps are burstin witrh pictures of

murdered children of fire swimmin

in the tears of a nation          this ain’t no

boy scout trip  this is the real deal    hell

on earth          what it’s about

 

little boys get arrested for thinkin

rocks at armed mercenaries    little boys

get their tender flesh singed with burnin

cigarettes        their heads smothered in piss soaked hoods

fingers cut off as though they were medallions       teeth

broken as though they were powder

 

pen tubes inserted into penises of little boys

til they confess they were born phalestini

confess they were born free

 

did i turn your stomach?

least i didn’t turn your insides to confetti

with a u.s. made machete up your pussy

rape you with my macine gun down your throat

gun point your father to molest

you in front of my army         prostitute your essence

til you confess you were born phalestinian

confess you would die the way

you were born                          free

 

closed universities and open prisons

curfews and house demolitions

the israeli flag is red white and blue too

this red drips from billy clubs and soldiers boots

this red soaks the faces of mourning mothers

losin more sons to the american tax dollars

 

iii

 

corner chaplain slow down

your bible and quran talk for a second

the land jesus was born in is bein crucified

the land of milk and honey is drownin in blood

the devil is alive overseas      alive and kickin

the hell outta palestine

 

conscious comrade

there’s a place uglier than your uptown’s slum

where the people are just as beautiful

strugglin sister

there’s a debkebeat funky as p.e.’s riff

signalin revolution liberation and freedom

 

so when we’re vibin on the pale

evil of welfare and crack             know i’m

across the street and across the sea     so when

we’re combatin cops and prisons          know there are prisons

like ansar iii     nazis wouldn’t touch      pigs wouldn’t visit

so when we read baraka and listen to malcolm 

let’s read darwish and keep on

listenin to malcolm

 

so when you call me sista

ask after our family

this shit is about more

than the newest gear and 

the biggest booty

it’s bigger than

our hoods and our heads

it aint all about this poem

and it aint all about 

taxis

and little white women

--------------------------------------------

break (clustered)

 

all holy history banned

unwritten books predicted the past

projected future but my head

unwraps around what appears

limitless man’s creative violence

 

whose son will it be

which male child will perish

a new day

 

our boys’ death galvanize

we cherish corpses

 

we mourn women complicated

bitches get beat daily

 

profits made

prophets ignored

 

worn tooth enamel slated lemon childhoods

 

all colors run

none of us solid

 

don’t look for shadow

behind me i carry it within

 

i live cycles of light and darkness

rythm is half silence

i see now

i never was one

and not the other

sickness health tender violence

 

i think now i never was 

pure before form

i was storm blind

ignorant still am

 

humanity contracted itself

blind malignant i

never was pure

 

girls spoiled before ripened

language can’t math me

i experience exponentially

everything is

everything

one woman loses 15 maybe 20 members of her family

one woman looses 6

one woman loses her head

one woman searches the rubble

one woman feeds on trash

one woman shoots her face

one woman shoots her husband

one woman straps herself

one woman gives birth to a baby

one woman gives birth to borders

one woman no longer believes love will ever 

find her

one woman never did

 

where do refugee hearts go

broken dissed placed

where they’re not from

don’t want to be

missed faced with absence

 

we mourn each one

or we mean nothing at all

 

my spine curves spiral

precipice running and running

from human beings

 

cluster bombs left behind

de-facto land mines

a smoldering grief

 

harvest contaminated tobacco

harvest bombs

harvest baby teeth

harvest palms

smoke

harvest witness

smoke

salvation

smoke

resolutions

smoke

redemption

smoke

breathe

 

do not fear what has blown up

if you must fear

the un-exploded

------------------------------------

land

 

his approach

to love he said

was that of a farmer

 

most love like

hunters and like

hunters most kill

what they desire

 

he tills

soil through toes

nose in the wet

earth he waits

pray to the gods

and slowly harvest

thankful

----------------------------------

love poem

it is late raining tonight

the only safe space i know

is the air still warm right after

a kiss the place where lips almost meet

breath lives electric

 

need is past now i hunger

not in heat but searching

for more than a pyre to sun me and my body

is straining against sleep

close

 

i want to be open and hide

the children of palestine within me

head first i would bear down

bring them into me

an act of desperat love

 

the israeli army shoots children in the head

 

i would shelter them where

it is warm where limbs meet

where life is where babies

come from horizon dawning

 

prey these children

grow up fall in love

make love everywhere always

be human be alive

 

it is said sex is

in the head where god is

where too ancestry where

vision and memory

and the ability to hear angels

 

place palestine’s 

children in this sacred

air between kisses breathe them in 

love them safe until

the israeli army stops

shooting children in the head

-----------------------------------------------

What I Will

I will not
dance to your war
drum. I will
not lend my soul nor
my bones to your war
drum. I will
not dance to your
beating. I know that beat.
It is lifeless. I know
intimately that skin
you are hitting. It
was alive once
hunted stolen
stretched. I will
not dance to your drummed
up war. I will not pop
spin beak for you. I
will not hate for you or
even hate you. I will
not kill for you. Especially
I will not die
for you. I will not mourn
the dead with murder nor
suicide. I will not side
with you nor dance to bombs
because everyone else is
dancing. Everyone can be
wrong. Life is a right not
collateral or casual. I
will not forget where
I come from. I
will craft my own drum. Gather my beloved
near and our chanting
will be dancing. Our
humming will be drumming. I
will not be played. I
will not lend my name
nor my rhythm to your
beat. I will dance
and resist and dance and
persist and dance. This heartbeat is louder than
death. Your war drum ain't
louder than this breath.

------------------------------------------

Blood stiched time

 

our kafiyes out of fashion
the stories stiched into them
unraveling round our necks

 

and now
we’ve achieved nobel
world peace and nobel and worthy cause
we’ve thanked youd thank youd thank youd
those who’ve denied our humanity eternally
and warmed our bitten hands with
those of our murderers

 

an eye for an eye
and with our eyes
long since bomed out
are swallowed as olive pits
the whole world is blind
we screamed      our
throats shredded to pieces of meat
thrown to hugry wolves in violent heat

 

i am the mother
no longer willing to sacrifice sons
to wars of men and
gods of war    i
mother refuse to lose
more daughters to sons gone crazy
watching kids get bombed and blown
into bits of brain and bone

 

i am the father
lost his daughters to refugee insanity
the daughter of landless orphans
child of impotent dreams

 

and now
kissers of earth    lovers of night
people of god    victims of survival
we understand
stand under the strain of false peace jammed up hopes
we speak with dried olive branches
caught in chests

 

we call back to the phalasteen
of folk songs and village dances
the phalasteenof martyrs and their mothers
the phalasteenbulldozed over in beirut
whose mouth was jammed silent
with food stamps in brooklyn

 

now that we’ve visited the white house
where is the living room jordan spoke of
who holds the key to our house
who lives in our house

 

now
i am the daughter
coughing up the olive branch
the son rebuilding a nation
the father rebuilding himself
i am the mother
stitching our stories into kafiyes
stiched into our land
of tears and blood
with years and love

 

i stitch the story

phalesteen
into a kafiye
never to unravel