Submission: "Tootard" by Palestinian Poet Leena Aboutaleb
tootard stains leaves lips soft red spills streams of /
drowning picking eternity from stems pull petals off / one by / one / time drips off the nectar sticky against tanned skin thighs hitching up white cotton
swam in space and soaked in the sun now I lie under
3amti’s zeytune trees and let
them escape down my lips
I pretend I am lying against the cool limestone of a house too far to imagine
eshta ma faroula—cream on tip of tongue think of you and imagine the windows in our bedroom hoping no one hears yasmine blossoms
I crush it into my skin 3shnak, illak—
1948 is a year. we never think twice about it.
I pretend to lie against the cool limestones of homes too far shim elyasmine hide in beirut and amman think it’s close enough close eyes in turkish coffee disappear into nothing and ch kolshi o walashi
confiscates into too deep oceans bursting through waves hair tangled in salt hot sand burns into skin figs pull through spaces in teeth tootard hides in cuticles bite out with nescafé and shay covered teeth
I know what our flowers smell like because we never had to leave. 1948 is a year. it is like any other. I know what our flowers smell like. I do not dip my head to smell close imitations of a country I am suppose to claim.
bridegroom and tootard
the wedding steals the city feet pound on stones running into narrow streets
fariouz sings above heads I toss the dice against Syrian carved pearls and pretend 1948 is only another year of jiddo’s life and it did not change anything nakba is a word used for jokes only I erase right of return from my tongue
I spend hot summers drowning in underground bars hiding from mama and baba I close my eyes in Beirut and pretend to taste Ramallah’s ice cream and arak pretending I know what it feels like to run barefoot in thyme stained fields and break poppies against the soles of my feet instead of the blood lost in exile pretend the red sea did not get red without a purpose pretend our poppies did not grow into an oxblood shade from stolen lives. I pretend to take my city in my hands. I pretend to mock my city in between my teeth instead of scrolling through lost WhatsApp videos from cousins I have never met. I get to laugh and say everyone knows Jerusalem’s falafel is shit instead of closing eyes.
1948 is only a year. 1948 is a year like any other.
we laugh at corruption and stamp through cobble streets in weddings and protests--there is no teargas or teargas only comes from our own government and not from them.
we spill land between our fingers shwya hon wa shwya hon 3a enti wa 3a ana wa kol ilnas. we take land back and give back.
I take my own zeytune tree. I take my own yasmine. I become and become and grow.
I give back plant poppies into fresh soil.
I spilt soil between my hands and dig yasmine into roots.
leena aboutaleb is an egyptian and palestinian ghost bred in between kuwait and baltimore. she recently graduated with a degree in global studies while researching arab civil societies and its expansions. she is currently based in cairo where she does graphic design and works on youm el, an emerging online art collective. her instagram is @leena_jpg.
aspirations derive from her mother’s upbringing as well as her own cities and experiences. this particular piece was inspired by imagining alternative worlds; if occupation hadn’t happened, if al nakba hadn’t set her family fleeing to jordan, if none of those realities existed and instead palestine was only another country. this piece was also inspired by a line of Mourid Barghouti's 'I Saw Ramallah’ in which he says, ‘perhaps the worst thing about occupied cities is that their children cannot make fun of them’.