Deema Shehabi



Deema K Shehabi is a poet, writer, and editor. The daughter of Palestinian parents, she grew up in the Arab world and moved to the United States in 1988. Her poems have appeared widely in journals and anthologies such as The Kenyon Review, Literary Imagination, New Letters, Callaloo, Massachusetts Review, Perihelion, Drunken Boat, Bat City Review, Inclined to Speak: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Poetry, and The Poetry of Arab Women. Her full collection Thirteen Departures From the Moon was published by Press 53 in 2011. She is also co-editor with Beau Beausoleil of Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, for which she received the Northern California Book Award’s NCBR Recognition Award. During 2009 – 2013 she worked with Marilyn Hacker on the renga poem sequence Diaspo/Renga. Her two plays, “A Handful of White Petals” and “Light Not Touched by Fire” were performed by the Arabian Shakespeare Company’s New Work Festival.







Why do you hover here
in this lagoon of skin and bones,
entangled in these veins,
surfacing with no voice?

Your breath is even,
while ahead of us
will be my memory of you—

you will be swift in weightless
white cotton,
your body arcing

in altering worship,
your head drifting from shoulder
to shoulder as you greet each angel.

You will then lift your heavy
legs off the floor
and proudly show

your perfect, little, supple toes;
This will put us
in the early part of summer

in a village next to a mountain,
one war, then two,
ripening in the pleated distance
we leave behind.


The headlong hours
in a hospital room,
with its windows facing the bulging light
where sitting in a wheelchair

with eyes dark and excavated with dreams,
my mother would die of cancer,
and all that would remain of her
are your toes.

Your breath is even;
we will drive home,
your face crumpling,

your voice beyond argument:
Do not let me leave this earth broken-
willed. Do not break my will.


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