Do you remember the ripened flesh ripping?
The sound of the matriarchs dying?
Mallow leaves etiolating?
Do you remember a rock skipping across the water of her womb and then disappearing? Her. My mama. 
Remember, we were not anointed to bear this special suffering
We want for double apple joy and mundane gossip too
Steady hands macerating in the moon
The wooden mortar and pestle 
All the desires crushed in cardamom 
Remember these thick calves — hers 
These wide hips — hers, eight times over 
Remember, your light began inside a woman you never met
This is not poetry. It is science.

I remember the dreams deferred 
And the longing originating in the back of my throat 
All the times we swallowed the sea
Sputtering the plastic our parents inherited us 
Searching for all the words we could not know
Like grace (or a promise you can’t break) 
I remember the empires of dough 
Leavened by longing 
And the tongues tracing tradition back to the beginning
Hearts ornamented by gilded verses that command: read
I remember - and do not remember - the way hunger churns like concrete in the stomachs of children. Then the hardening. 
We are still paying the price.

I remember the city of citrus where my baba shed the skin of his boyhood
Much too soon
The orange rind is still stuck under his fingernails 
And in the slowness of April 
I remember the sap rising 
To kiss the tips of its branches 
Blessing our lips with the richest pressed olives
I remember the open borders and how toasted sesame seeds are a song your homeland sings only for you
Come, I can show you
The mountains breaking on the shore of every bronzed giggle
The chafing of thighs
The women ululating without covering their mouths
And the way meditation stopped the war in one village in Lebanon
This is not poetry. It is history.

In every way, I remember 
The inherited shame of a body that cannot but ache for your familiar violence 
And it is a fact that your hands will touch what they reach for 
But please remember that the tired persimmons are waiting patiently too
As are all the songs of Um Kulthum
Even the ones that make the old men cry
The ones you already know how to hum
The drums 
The dusty carpets beat over the railings 
The boys bent out of their cars
Racing towards the conquering of bodies and countries 
The one black and white photograph with the deep set eyes and the lace edged hijab
Looking right at me
All that she could never be 
All that I am
Do you remember? 
You must. 
The past demands it. 
The future depends on it.

This poem was written in response to the exhibition Louise Bourgeois - Has the Day Invaded the Night or Has the Night Invaded the Day? at the Art Gallery of NSW.