Child of Wihdat

One of eighteen, seventeen that survived
The weight of the world, how could you bare, pain so deep that its swallowed you w(hole)?
They say emotional trauma has the ability to live through three generations
So what will my children say? When they find out who you are? What you are? Where you are?
When I tell them of your story/what parts will I share and what parts will I hide/because I want them to know
To know that we are from bayt jubrin – the house of the powerful
To know that you were the first to leave/even if it meant siddo’s banishment from the family
The first to get an education/even if it meant years of humiliation in Alabama/skin so brown they laughed you off before you came in the door/to apply for jobs scrubbing dishes
Engineering like a good Arab man/but lacking the money to finish your education/ just like any another brown man in these fifty states that have been lied to

Will I tell them about the bruises on her arm
bas you don’t know what I’ve been through
Will I tell them about the taped messages
bas you don’t know see/she see deserved it
Will I tell them about the week you spent in our attic
The times you followed her
Like the time she drove to Memphis to give labor to me and to hide from you
and you looked through all the cars from southern to central until you found her
Will I tell them about what you did to her

Will I tell them about the Cranberries song/running out of a department store screaming/twelve years later when I hear
The blasted songs my sister used to shield me from
From from from
In your head… zombie, zombie, zombie

Or will I tell them about when you lived in the slum houses in Memphis
&; I was playing with that one goodwill toy you bought me
&; there was a rainbow magnet on the fridge
&; my ball went underneath the couch
&; I looked and found what was/baba what is this/baba is that a rifle/baba
habibty its okay that’s nothing

Will I show them the picture of me on my 5th birthday at the shelter in Nashville/they made me a cake/these unknown women with black eyes and scarred skin and kind hearts
Will I tell them of all of the warrior women that carried my mother and I and my sister throughout my childhood/the village that raised me
Will I tell them about Jo – will I tell them about this lesbian warrior that came out with an AK-47 and told you to get the fuck out or else she would kill you and she did– to a man three times her size that seen barrels of guns since his the age of two/the barrels of guns that accidentally shot his brother/because/that’s/what/you/do/when/you/are/a/ leader of the PLO and you are raising sons to be the protectors of al-Watan

Baba, I know the world has been cruel to you
I know you were abused by the very hands of the man you needed to be loved by
A heart blackened with the passage of war and displacement
I know you have had to bear the ugliest price for this “freedom”
I know you have been deceived and lied to manipulated for the darkness of your skin, the way your words just never seem to assimilate, the religion you sometimes practice but wear as a badge of honor
I know you have been spat on and humiliated and tormented/emasculated/by men that you say have no idea the shoes you’ve walked in and the path you’ve walked

Bipolar disorder/manic episodes/no no these white men are lying
What do these doctors know/they are cheating me
And the spirals and the spirals and the spirals
The lithium makes you numb you say they are trying to poison you
We don’t have this bullshit where I come from, they are just making things up to kill me
Mama’s 72 hours of peace have ended and hell has returned
Eyes weary, heart pleading, barely surviving

Child of wihdat, I mean Baba, when does the pain of your past become too deep to bear?
When does the weight of your trauma, of your untreated illness, of your hatred of this country
When does it become too much
When does this pain become so much that it is not worth another’s life
Her right to live and to breathe and to be

It has been twelve years
I have no intent to ever see you again
This thought alone used to make me collapse
But now I realize as Mama always says, that the greatest gift you ever gave us was staying gone/when those blue lights came for you
I hope one day you find the peace you were looking for
In this life, or the next
And for that child born yesterday in wihdat

May you find the reflection of your
Worth/your beauty/your resilience in
This world not in the eyes of those too
Scorned to see past their sorrows but
In the reflection in those broken mirrored pieces you see on the
Ground in the alleys in the streets in the streets in
Your mamas vanity

Trust that light/honor that spirit/fight
for that revolution.


Note from the Author: This poem is about my father, a child of Wihdat Camp in Amman, Jordan. It reflects a small eye into my childhood and my family’s experience surrounding domestic violence and mental illness as a Palestinian refugee in the US. This poem intends to open up the conversation within our community in the hopes of combatting stigma around mental illness as well as patriarchal violence.


Image Credit: She Who Powers The Village by Jean Sheridan.

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