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Etel, you wrote about wanting a place: Berkeley / Damascus / Delphi / Beirut. I understand the cling to the ancestral, as if my latent spirituality means there is something waiting for me in Nazareth. You know, Anthony Bourdain has seen more of Palestine than I have. Radical, they said, to give women in Gaza the courtesy of attention. My family gathers on the couch anyway, witness to this dangerous attention. My father asks me if I sign my name to the work I do. Fragile, barely critical—and still, he worries. It’s fine, he says. I’m not sure when you’ll go again, anyway. Leena & I pass notes during a craft talk on home; she says, liberation means my return, too. Etel, I am as at home in Oakland as I am in Seattle as I am on an airplane—creaky back & all, as long as someone is speaking to me. Ten years ago I tapped a man on the shoulder & pointed at two people I love, said We are here because of you. A teenaged devotion. I am ashamed for how much credit I give, I want, I want, I want, Do you watch food travel shows, Etel? So many have tried to usurp Bourdain’s legacy since his passing. I cried when I heard, decided to eat something new in his honor. I can’t remember the name of the dish / So perhaps I missed the point. I watch Road Food with Helen & we make exceptions for its mediocrity. Anything is worth the laughter, the love, this chorus of joy & a couch that belongs to neither of us becomes place, teenaged devotion renewed & I remember we are here because of you. I am ashamed of how much credit I can give. What takes me from place to place? I wish I could ask you about past lives. I wish I could tell you this theory about the dispersal of souls. For so long I was self-righteous in my loneliness. If only, if only, the universe held enough balance to allow me in the same place as those whose hearts matched mine for longer than a week. Of course, who will know you completely before you are fully yourself? I never desired to travel, no, not unless someone was there waiting for me. But, I have always been hungry. I have had homes in cities whose streets I cannot navigate / I come from a place mythed in surrender / I am afraid of asking the right questions / Etel, what I mean is, I will substitute the couch for a risk & get my heart broken, anyway. There are so many lives I have not let myself live, restless, paradoxical, tripping instead into the imaginations of others. Corrupted. Cruel. I wonder about the life stolen from me. Would I love what I love if I loved it from Palestine?  My cousin reads my poems, says I’m glad someone in the family can do this work. Vague, as to not trigger dangerous attention. This work, this work. Kill all idols / grant men no rewards. I am where I am where I am. I’m sorry for what I’ve brought you into, Etel. I am learning what I already know.

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