The White Poet Wants to Know Why I Don’t Write More Arab Poems

 

Because, while a war blooms at the margins

of the other country that claims me, still

 

I am here with my ordinary grief and its language.

 

Because every time I open my mouth

I am an Arab opening my mouth

 

and the poem is, and isn’t, responsible.

 

Sometimes I have to shake

the sand from my story

like a shoe by the side of the road.

 

I have lost nearly everyone I love, and all

to mundane tragedies.

 

I have never felt in my bones a bomb’s

radius of light.

 

The truth is I can only write about God

so many times

 

before he starts listening.

 

The truth is, like you,

some days I am struck

 

by pleasure so simple and insistent

I can’t resist—the sun offering indiscriminate

 

brightness against my window, on the table

an empty glass glittering

 

—or sometimes, too, I am unwilling

to mention the wild

 

flowers staked in the field like flags.

 

Leila Chatti is a Tunisian-American poet and author of the chapbook Tunsiya/Amrikiya, forthcoming from Bull City Press. She is the recipient of the 2017–18 Ron Wallace Poetry Fellowship from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, a writing fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, scholarships from the Tin House Writers’ Workshop and Dickinson House, and prizes from Ploughshares’ Emerging Writer’s Contest, Narrative Magazine’s 30 Below Contest, and the Academy of American Poets. Her poems appear in Best New Poets, New England Review, West Branch, the Rumpus, and elsewhere.