Nestled in the dirt, under the roots of a date tree

Half of my heart waits

Calling out to me desperately


I’m walking, earbuds in

Down the streets of a city I don’t think wants me 


My feet hit the pavement to the rhythm of music 

In words that aren’t my mother tongue


While my mother’s tongue struggles to pronounce the words that make up this new land

Hard L’s and unrolled R’s and sounds that warp her name

Twisting, turning, tangling until they weave something that makes the most familiar parts of herself seem like strangers



I wonder if

Home sounds the same to her in this other language

In this other world

Where neighbors are distant and the family that moved with her is the only proof of the dusty streets she used to live on 

Where golden shrines that used to dot the city, like glimpses into heaven 

Were filled with throngs of people, crushing together to get closer to God, to each other, to the promise of forever

And if the only promises she knows now are the ones that were never kept


I wonder if

My father hunched and shoveling the mounds of snow that taunt him every winter

Remembers the feeling of the desert that used to warm his feet

As he played soccer, shooting goals the way he later had to shoot guns 

If every time he watches the news, he remembers the feeling of shrapnel piercing his chest, or

If, every time he bites into American fruit,

He remembers the fruit picked fresh off the tree of his family home, sweet juices dribbling down his chin

And tastes the nostalgia


I wonder if 

Every time the words of their mother language die on their tongues, my siblings are reminded of the graveyard their mouths have become

Or if they are homesick for a home they’ve never set foot in,

If they set a seat at the table for the distant relative who will never come

And stare at the empty seat and feel an anger as consuming as the wars that tore their homeland apart,

Wars that left their parents walking on the earth as strangers

Floating between two worlds

Always islands 

I wonder if they still know that love isn’t always a four-letter word

Or that words can say things, but they can’t feel things

That the ache in their chest from missing something makes it real 

And that, just because something is missing, doesn’t mean it’s gone,


I wonder if I —


The music stops


Underneath the palm tree, half of my heart is wailing,

Railing against its earthen confines 

But its voice is muffled against the dirt

“Come back to me,” it begs

But I am deaf to its noise


I press play again and keep walking in the wrong direction

Contemplating homesickness in the wrong language


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