July 27, 2014

Zeina Hashem Beck

YA’ABURNEE

(Arabic): literally “you bury me,” a term of endearment expressing the desire to die before a loved one, rather than live without them

when my daughter, proud,
carries her milk tooth
in a plastic bag
the graffiti in my head reads

IN THIS BAG, MY SON

when she asks
how many suns
so the world could shine

MORE THAN 500
DEAD

when she asks how many
skies

THOUSANDS
OF HOUSES

when she brings me
flowers she has picked
their heads floating
in a bowl

RUN!
(sprayed in vibrant colors)

when she points
to an image of Mary
says, This is the Mona Lisa

MOSUL

when she swings
from an olive tree

LAND

when she says she likes
her grandmother’s soup best
in red

HUNGER

when she tells me ya’aburnee
because she thinks it’s the best
love term one could ever use
(I say it to her all the time)
my mind turns

BLANK

I shout
No, never,
GOD
forbid

when she asks what ya’aburnee
means, asks again, insists
I explain

YA’ABURNEE

means parents
grow old and die before
their children do

when she says,

IT’S THE SADDEST DAY

when you don’t sleep next to me

I know she means

STAY

means

LOSS

means

HOME

Poets Respond
July 27, 2014

[download audio]

__________

Zeina Hashem Beck: “The morning I read about the shelling of Shujaiya, I carried the knowledge and images with me all day, and they haunted me, even when I was playing with my daughters. Then came the news about ISIS forcing Christian families out of Mosul. That day my daughter told me ‘ya’aburnee,’ and I felt terrified. Ya’aburnee is a very common term we Arab parents tell our children, and it translates as, ‘May you bury me.’ The implication is, ‘May I die before you do (because I love you so much).’ The poem followed from all this. This is for the parents who had to bury children, and for those who are fighting against the burial of identity.” (website)