You’d be glad to know
that my Israeli cousin approves of you,
my “Palestinian boyfriend.”
She says our fathers are both Semites, after all.
They both don’t know the taste of pork,
circumcised fifty years ago, born into the land
of Not Enough, taught to feel shame,
hardwired to like guilt.
On Yom Kippur I get to feel guilty
for a whole day.
Like the time I thought my dog had slowed
when really it was just dying.
Or the fact that even men
fake orgasms. Or when I watched you watch me
hide the Afikomen
and still took all the money for myself.
Or last Ramadan in Ramallah, when I told you
I’ve never touched a woman like that.
Or even now, on this blanket in the dirt,
the fact that I don’t even know which one is
Mick Jagger, or that I’ll only lean forward
into the blue lights for so long.
Only until the glass volleys from this girl’s mouth
just miss my neck, catching me
in the sun, grazing my arm, the tongue
like burnt sugar
“May you live to see your children’s
children,” as I drop three shekels
into a beggar’s palm, as your aunts argue in Arabic
over fresh or frozen peas, as I wonder if you can
and stow it away,
or do you have to freeze it and face it
I ask because my cousin refuses to die childless.
Even with those tubes coming out of her, her mouth
frozen in the shape of an O, like Adonoy,
like “marry me,” like the Ramallah girl’s
mark on my neck, darkened like an
olive tree, like the MiSheberach
that’s never answered
but never stops, sometimes when you drive away
I cry so gracelessly, gratefully,
like a refugee returning home, like
tonight I’ll bring her to my room, like even
sailors, we are told, never learn to swim.
For when a ship goes down, the swimmers
will just keep swimming,
only to suffer the longest.
So tell me.
Do you amuse them when you go away,
these Jewish girls, with little tales
of exile? Because if you saw me like this,
you’d never leave.
How I torture her in bed.
How I make her beg and beg
and then refuse her.
Illustration by Maggie Meshnick.