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This Time

Ahmad Amireh

​​This time we fly one way

With no return flights, Gaza airport is so busy

Flight after flight

No departures, only arrivals

No not arrivals, returners

Not tourists, but tenants

Refugees with renourished roots reaching across the diaspora



This time is different

No 8-hour interrogation

The only question is where do we start

My family waves through the window as the bus to Ramallah bustles off

I won’t join them just yet

Mustafa rebuilt his home

So I start in Jerusalem

We sit for tea with mint picked from his garden

He had no room for a garden in the camp

Now he nurtures n3n3

Shadowed by dawali

Surrounded by kousa

Rocks reserved for slingshots and worn but young hands build a barrier for the soil

We walk to Bab al-3amood, enter the old city and hunt down m3mool


The city is different

Less packed

More people but no guns

Harder to walk but easier to breathe

No more conflict congested by alleged complication

This herd of black and white keffiyeh knows no shades of gray


Now to Beit Lehm with Mustafa

He still comes a lot, still gives tours

We play soccer on Shari3 Al-Khalil with Ali and Mohammed

Samer never liked soccer, but he eggs us on

We play with more room now, no wall now

Samer has nothing to lean against now

He can’t occupy the soldiers tower, no more towers


Samer intervenes to settle disputes, no more soldiers officiating our matches with AR 15s

See this time is so different, our referee will not default to the red card

No more red cards

No more martyrs


I'm tired

We breathe heavy from running, not from gas

This time is different

Ali’s juice stand is nearby, lemon mint for me as we walk to Al Aida

Still a symbol of steadfastness

We look up at the key on the arch

Reach into our pockets

Feel the grooves on our own, and smile

We carry keys but we don’t lock our doors

Doors are always open

Porches populated with patient aunts and political uncles

Argheelah and bizar

Kids are running the streets

Playing tag


Even their running is different


No more tanks, no more jeeps chasing them down

Kids run from kids

Scared of a friendly but competitive hand

Fear is fun now

Protests turned into potlucks

Checkpoints to chanafa stands

Prisons to playgrounds

Young to old we swing and slide, no longer are we swings and slides in a fascist playground


Even the clouds are different this time

Further away this time

We look up to them, no longer suffocating through them

Made of water from the Galilee, not of gas from American shells


I go home, back to al-Bireh

In America I go on google maps at night - street view

Roaming roads I hope to walk on next time

Frustrated when the arrow disappears, I want to see where the road ends


Learning these roads because my time would be limited

This time is different

No visa

No limits

We have hawiya this time

We have 7reeya this time


No more nights on street view

I’m here

A short stroll from the bright lights and bustling Manara square

No more street view

No more maps

No return flight but my phone stays on airplane mode and I'm wandering

From al-Bireh to al-Tirah

From Manara square to Mandela's square

Past the bounds of the old wall

I keep going and I’m lost

And it’s dark

This is where the arrow ended

No more road

Old frustrations replaced with fear but fear is fun now

No maps

No rush

No visa or occupation to make me leave


Just as I dreamed


My feet sink into the soil, anchored with the strength of an olive tree

I flow down the winding trails like viscous Qatir filling every kataifi crevice in a slice of kunafa


Just as I dreamed


I’m lost...

In Palestine, with a lifetime to find my way

And I won’t leave this time

I’ll dance above it or lay below it, but I won’t leave

This time is different.

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