Samia Saliba
“A young Turkish man asks a question about writing: “When you start writing because it hurts so much, do you only write about racism?” I try to tell him, you don’t write about racism, you write about life. It is life you must write about. It is life you must insist on. For him the distinction is inadequate and unhelpful. He asks again, but I cannot satisfy him.”
– Dionne Brand, A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes on Belonging

for Hamza, & with gratitude to Adrian, Maya, Alejandro, Carlo, Jason, Ann, Jaden, Tiara, José, Melissa, Sebastian, & Dionne Brand.


my husband bursts into the bedroom big smiled
& childlike to embrace me, says he has been clearing
the plates from our lunch & felt overwhelmed
with joy for our life. the lunch was fattet batinjan, for
the curious, an attempt at spilling home out on a
hostile soil. what we have, i know, is an arab life,
though i could not tell you what this means. he speaks
of nourishment; something like that. later my mom emails
a digitized video of me, age 5, in a performance for my
after school arts programs. i am wearing a paper frog hat
that won’t stop falling over my eyes. my husband delights
at this, laughs and smiles & grows his cheeks each time
the camera zooms mechanically towards my tender face.
we fall asleep crying at my attempts to do a cartwheel,
my bulbous bowl cut, the way i pronounce my best
friend’s name in the video – a-wee-na, the sluggish L
too close and round for my mouth – etc. there is something
in the early 2000s camcorder quality that makes me feel split
apart, dipped in the past like an ice cream cone smothered in
chocolate. adrian says the nation-state monopolizes
belonging & i think about this for days. i try to catalog all
the ways we exist to each other without borders but the
life i’ve indexed is like the pixeled-out camcorder version
of ours. the frame rate too slow to capture our hands meeting
across the continent of decades. i want to belong with you
the way fingers belong to a hand, held together with all this
ligature we can’t see. ya albi, there is no country for us &
that’s the way it should be but if we could belong anywhere
i know it would be rough & coastal, situated at the video-
glitch of a shore. the ocean groaning into the future. the pebbles
& the sand.