Nawal Nader-French



That I can tell firecrackers from gunfire. That I can only distinguish bombs from thunder when a whistle precedes the thunder. But that I think every thunder is a bomb falling and That I drop and look for shelter. That I am embarrassed that I jump at a loud noise. That I know I will not die as long as I can relive memories where I lived through death. That I know to open windows to avoid glass shrapneling the house. That the building in Lebanon did not have a basement. That I know how to fill sandbags. That I know what they are for. That the buildings on the street with sand bags are the ones with sons called to fight.  That I know when school will be canceled.

That I remember we forget to protect ourselves from a bomb landing in the elevator shaft. That we assume if it happens we are meant to die. That men can cry. That I remember filling the sand bags that block the lobby entrance. That the tenants of the building crawl on the ground on mattresses wait for bombardment. That I want to live. That I remember the warning on the radio the day before. That we are warned. That all day we fill sand bags. That I remember the next day is sunny. That the sound of music in the dark and psalm this and psalm thatdo not drown the bombs. That the   hills     alive    mean I will not die.

That I am afraid to die by bomb.  That there is a moment   we think the warning is an exaggeration. That there is a moment    we laugh at our fear. That I remember the sounds so rapid and close.  That the walls wave in sonic booms. That I touch the walls. That I wonder how sound makes them move. That I want   to live. That my father finally afraid and my mother switched off in song. That my sisters cannot speak. That my brother nurses. That I remember brothers called to fight. That they fight for different factions of the same nation. That it was a nation against itself. That my mother is not in herself.

That I remember how I do not understand what this war is about.That we sleep in the shelter. That I can only remember sounds. That we are all afraid. That we are all afraid to die. That my father does not shave this morning. That he does not laugh the bombs off. That I do not care if my stuff I left upstairs in my room is blown apart as long as I am not blown apart. That I don’t think of tomorrow. That I               want to live. That I want to go to school. That I want a future. That I cannot see a future. That God has abandoned us. That my mother is alive. That we abandon to prayer.

That the moment is always alive. That the word trauma spells memory. That when it starts, it starts so fast and I can not move. That even when a bomb drops in a movie, I cannot move. That my father has to lift me and take me to shelter. That my only thought is I would die. Surely, I would die     and that it would be okay because I would die      with my family     and we will not be alone when it happens.


AUTHOR'S NOTE:To be an immigrant even after becoming a citizen is to live as an adopted thing— as one who lives in fear of being rejected; as one whose security of citizenship depends on the whim of a country’s governing party. Citizen exists only insofar that the other exists but the immigrant-other never attains a sense of self, or citizenship, and is instead trapped in subservience towards validating the framework for maintaining the powers that adopted him or her. For me, eliminating the tension between a self and (an)other means subverting language and traditional practices in writing— it means to write away from the expected literary tension— from linearity, in the hopes it may direct readers towards discovering that the repulsive thing they fear; the immigrant-other, is merely the fear of one’s self and that ultimately fuels prejudice.  

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