by Fargo Tbakhi
Fargo Tbakhi is a queer Palestinian-American writer and performer from Phoenix, Arizona. He is the winner of the 2019 Ghassan Kanafani Resistance Arts Scholarship. He is a Pushcart nominee, and his work can be found in Cotton Xenomorph, Mizna, Crab Fat Magazine, Cosmonauts Avenue, Glass: a Journal of Poetry, and elsewhere. Find him @YouKnowFargo.
This poem was shortlisted for the 2019 Peach Gold in Poetry with guest judge Dorothea Lasky.
Image of a dabke at the Great March of Return
In the video the feet are shouting
over the whine of bullets. Bullets whine-
in this way and others, they are like
children. The snipers as close as a panic attack
in the morning. A cardboard cutout of a fence,
a diorama susurrating belonging or not.
In the video, you can see spurts of dust leaping into the air
as bullets displace them, showers of sand on my people’s
impeccable kicks, designer jeans (yes, Palestinians really wear these
to protests. A zaghareet for our flexing! Our banana republic!)
Yes, the dust is poetic license. It is also true. Yes, susurrus is a word only
poets and leaves find useful. Yes, I am a mound of crinkly leaves
worth diving into. My autumnal body play, my decaying center.
In the video it is hard to see the fence
behind the roil of the tire smoke, which acts as backdrop
for the feet, which act as percussors for the legs,
which act as representatives of the body, which acts as bodies do: it takes
up space. Dancing scarecrow. Corpse bride.
In the video, you can hear the jaws of white people halfway across
the world drop. You can hear the crocodile admiration: how
can they dance? so brave the way they
Susurrus, from the Latin for “humming, whispering.” The noise of it
a mimesis of its action. The stamp of our feet on the dirt
a mimesis of what our hearts do every day at dawn, rising to make the
coffee. The audacity of us: to render the entire desert our club,
the tear gas our fog machine, the lights of the drones our strobes.
If I was not a poet, I would simply show you the video and call it
good. If I was not a poet, I would simply dabke for you,
nudging bullets out of the way with every kick.
If I truly believed what I said, I would not say anything.
The Latin for susurrus is just susurrus: we did not change a thing
in the adoption. In this way, etymology is straight-forward,
like a child,
speeding at the leg of a dancer tamping down the desert sand
to spite the barrel of a sniper’s child-hurler propelling little
children at approximately three thousand four hundred feet per second
towards the dancer and the dancer’s family, and all the dancer
does is dance, and all the snipers do is breathe, and all I do is try
and say anything at all of why we dance other than the tea
is still steeping or the toenail is the riot shield of the toe or my father
had poor reception this morning but we are trying again tonight
or we’re only impervious to bullets in poems and comic books
and I cannot draw. In any case,
I know how to spell susurrus and can use it properly.
Surely that counts for something.
Why dance? Why rise each morning? Why not simply stop
breathing? Surely it would be simpler
to let the children lead us to god.
Surely there are better ways
to try and flaunt survival.
A theory of the origin of the dabke holds that it comes
from the way we had to stamp the dirt
in order to harden a floor for our huts.
Of course, due to the crumbly, ever-shifting nature of dirt,
this would mean, of course,
that our dance
will never be finished,