Thursday Jul 27

Champion Poetry Anne Champion is the author of Reluctant Mistress (Gold Wake Press, 2013) and The Dark Length Home (Noctuary Press, forthcoming). Her work appears in Ploughshares, Verse Daily, Prairie Schooner, The Pinch, New South, Redivider, PANK Magazine, and elsewhere. She was a 2009 Academy of American Poets Prize recipient, a 2016 Best of the Net winner, and a Barbara Deming Memorial Grant recipient. She currently teaches writing and literature at Wheelock College in Boston. Her website can be found here
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Show Your ID


This flimsy scrap of cardstock,
so easy to crumple or tear, so often

you’ve dreamed of throwing it away.
No passport—you are a citizen of no where.
 
You are no citizen. Your ID only states
where you belong—Israel or the West Bank.
 
Work and relatives mean crossing borders,
mean a dark road home, mean aching legs
 
in long lines at security checkpoints
in cattle shoots while the sun brands
 
your skin: Palestinian. This is how
the world works, friend. No welcome,
 
no farewell. You’re stashed and sorted
and set aflame, your anger turns
 
in your gut, a slow scorch on a spit,
this axis of hate and fear, this long pole
 
that runs through everyone
as sure and steady as a backbone.
 
If you’re here, you’re nearly
invisible. If you’re here, you might
 
as well be gone. But you grip
your ID and continue. Resistance—
 
if you can, write. If you can, dance
or plant or give the world a song.



Why I Have Privilege Guilt During My Interrogation at The Israeli Airport


Because I must sit in the cramped
            back room, sleep deprived,
suspicious eye shaped shadows
            in my periphery—because
no one here looks like me, their
            almond skin, their bodies
that smell so brazenly of body,
            their bright hijabs, patterned
in warm hues: wine, ash, midnight,
            tangerine, rust, gold—because I’m
American, and we think we can save
            everything, and this morning
I wiped the grease of French fries
            on a McDonald’s bag,
and the fat and salt still sit heavy
            in my gut like an anchor
as the soldiers eye me, and
            it’s like a game to me—
because I know I’ll be called back first,
            because my passport protects
me and my white skin has always
            been a shield. Because there’s
so many things I wouldn’t have to see
            if I didn’t choose to.
Because when they call me to the room,
            their guns are ravenously hungry,
but I’m not their craving, because
    the room feels like a humid mouth,
sticky with thirst—because they ask,
    Why are you here? And I lie,
To see the holy sights! Because the truth
    is I don’t really know. I’m here
for the horror show, I’m here to try
    to do something positive
with my privilege, I’m childless,
    I’m free, I don’t want to be another
ignorant American, but I can’t
                  give up my clean water, my sleep
without bombs, my ability to say
                  whatever I want and never
feel the cold burn of handcuffs.
                  Because Ashraf Fayadh,
Palestinian refugee and poet, sits
                  in a cell in Saudi Arabia
awaiting death for his words, because
                  we are the same, but not at all
the same, and what can I possibly
                  say about the wasteland of hate
that he couldn’t understand better?
                  Because what is it to be American and white?
A bullet, no, a coin, no, a stain
                  of blood on a shroud that looks
like a star stamped on the forehead
          of a corpse. Because I smile sweetly
at my interrogator and he smiles back,
          lets me go, tells me to enjoy my trip.



Fatherly Wisdom for The Palestinian Child


After my brother died,
my daughter asked
if ghosts exist.
 
Yes, my heart, they do.
But you will find them
in the living,
not in the dead.
 
***
 
My daughter said,
Why don’t the internationals help us?
 
I replied, The world is sleeping,
my heart.
 
Her mother taught her
to weave beads
in the colors of our flag,
to tie them onto
each delicate wrist artfully,
her plump fingers
gracing the skin—
bead by bead, she wakes
the slumbering world.

***

When they arrested me,
my daughter cried.
Papa, I’m afraid.
 
When I returned, I scolded
her for that fear, taught
her to dance Debke
for the soldiers
in the dark of night.

Whenever fear
grips her stiff spine
and threatens to unzip it,
she’ll dance.