An Untitled Poem

By: Samya Abu-Orf

I am sick with rage
Sorry, sir, I cannot come in to work today
6 Palestinian boys were murdered this weekend
and the blood of their wounds has filled my stomach
and curdled
And if I come in, I fear I will vomit their death all over the floor
Shiny shoed patrons would not appreciate that,
clutching their soup cups as they step over my body’s anguish,
the chaos that threatened to turn my stomach inside out

I am spotted in pock marks born of my rage
feel the itch begin burning beneath the skin of my arms and face,
when I watch the cops’ batons make contact with the fragile bones of my friends,
make pulp of the supple fruit of their flesh
I find myself in fever dreams,
delirious from the erratic manner in which they land hand
or fist
or baton
on some mother’s masterpiece
Itch can make you crazy, ya know?
Rabid and wild with virulent desire for relief
for an end to all the ways the pocks
spread wide their fingers
and dig nails into my skin, spread like ivy
My rage is alive and

The first time a man made me sick to my stomach
I was 9 years old, chubby face and wire-rimmed glasses
in standstill traffic for hours on end
silently singed by the too-intense stare
of the too-old man from the next lane
The uncertain queasiness stuck to me for days after
Something in my gut knew I was ingesting something rotten
Sometimes the body tells you truths the mind does not yet recognize
but I would come to know this nausea intimately over the next 15 years
I learned to swallow the sulfurous words men tried to pour down my throat
and conceal the sputtering mess that followed
learned to keep walking silently when too-old men
tell me about my own body
describe the desecration of this flesh I have labored so hard to care for

I have been taught to ignore their infectious hands reaching for me
the airborne virus of their disrespect and narcissism
Now I walk louder than before
Made hazmat suit of this skin
Tell them to cover their damn mouths the next time they consider exposing me to their sickness
But still, I spend nights restless and sleep deprived,
coughing up remnants of their depravity
my body eager to be rid of their scourge
Alone in the dark, my rage nearly shakes my body apart
every night

It becomes clear to me
my rage is not the sickness itself
There are some common ways internal ailments manifest on the body
Fever, soreness, fatigue
Armaments of a body under attack
And I find my rage to materialize the same way:
Incendiary excitement, pain, exhaustion—
the body’s way of fighting back
the sensical symptom of a lethal environment
My rage is born of radical care
unwavering devotion to the human spirit
My rage is the arsenal of weapons wielded by my love
come alive

For it is also my rage that sings to me
in sweat-soaked sheets
when the sickness feels strong,
It brings water, slow and sipping
to my comrades
overcome with the same ailment
a defiant nurturing
Vicks VapoRub hugs to ease the heaving of my chest
cold compress of empathy

There is nothing triumphant in finding wellness
when surrounded by plague
There is only the grace of healing
That despite everything trying to kill you,
—sometimes from the inside out—
You fight
You survive
You live.

My rage is born of
in a better future
where tenderness need never raise arms of rage to defend itself,
where it exists unchallenged

That world will exist
For now, my love flexes its muscles
defends its destiny
fights for this body
reminds me that my symptoms are transitory,
a road from here to there—
that future I know so resolutely in my heart
And to those also fighting this sickness, I say:
your rage is precious to you!



Photos by Jorge Navarrete

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