Hasheemah Afaneh

Remember the Name

My name is a refugee
From Haifa, Acre, and Jaffa,
But I have no idea
What these places are like.
My grandparents told me,
You chased them out of there
With an airstrike.
I don’t remember your
orange trees.
I’ve never put a toe in your
Beautiful sea.
I have never even entered
My own home,
So for it,
I dedicate this poem.
My grandmother holds the
House key.
To go back home is her plea.
My grandfather remembers
Every bit.
Before his voice starts shaking,
He bites his lip.
They no longer live in the
House they built.
They wonder if the people that took it
Feel an ounce of guilt.
As for us,
We became a statistic,
In one of those “resolution plans”
That is a book thick.
And although I have lived
Nowhere else,
I feel like I could’ve been
Someone else.
But my name,
Since 1948,
Is a refugee
That doesn’t want to hate.

When my grandparents are gone,
They’ll leave me their key
That they so desperately hold
And I’ll be here
Searching for an identity,
Something that isn’t an entity.
But I won’t be naïve
To think someone will take me back.
All I want is for someone to remember my name.
So will you remember my name?


The Borders Where Time Stopped

Where did the time stop?
At the crossing of borders, I presume.
Was it when I stuck
The yellow stickers on my three bags
Filled with memories, za’atar,
And my favorite childhood chocolate,
Ali Baba?
Was it at the border
Where they’d tell me to forget
what I left behind
And that I must bid farewell to Israel?
They hoped I had a wonderful visit –
As if my home was a vacation spot.
Was it at the border
Where you took my identity card to check
….another background check?
Was it at the border
when the mosque was calling
For the morning prayer
And my family was returning without me
To the land that can never leave me?
I will never be sure.
The watch forever reads: 4:01:18.
I will never be sure if it was
AM or PM,
If it was the early morning in the airport
Or the minute I arrived to a place
that doesn’t want to understand me.
Did time stop at the crossing of borders?
Did it stop to remind me what I left
And would return to?


The Syllables That Come After 

“You’re from Pa-,”
Not sure if you should end with
“-kistan” or the other one;
the one textbook maps ignore,
the one that is
the reason you’ll draw an arrow
and write, “free Palestine!”,
the one why they warn you,
with a white sticker to not “destroy school’s property”
And they’ll never know you came from destroyed property.
It’s too heavy a syllable,
too conflicted like the next two
that come after.

“I’m from the end of the hyphenation,
but originally, I’m-,”
How do you introduce yourself?
Being from here and not quite from here?
Being from a land whose borders have been
Drawn and erased…cut and misplaced?
You know who you are, but how do you explain it?
How do you claim it?

“So you’re Pa- Palestinian or Jewish or…?”
“I’m Palestinian.” Not a stutter.
The three-syllable word is too heavy.
Too conflicted.
It ends there.

Hasheemah Afaneh is a Palestinian-American currently based in the United States. She is a Birzeit University alumnus. She has written for the Huffington Post, Fair Observer, Riwayya, This Week in Palestine, and Sixteen Minutes to Palestine among others. She blogs at norestrictionsonwords.wordpress.com.