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Front Cover: Before the Next Bomb Drops: Rising Up from Brooklyn to Palestine
by Remi Kanazi [Haymarket/USA, 2015]

 

My Poetry Corner June 2019 features the poem “Nothing to Worry About” from the poetry collection Before the Next Bomb Drops: Rising Up from Brooklyn to Palestine (Haymarket Books, 2015) by Remi Kanazi, a poet, writer, and organizer based in New York City. Born in 1981, he is the son of Palestinian refugees who fled Palestine during the Nakba of 1948 when the state of Israel was established. In this collection, he not only addresses the Israel-Palestine conflict, but also examines racism in America, police brutality, US militarism at home and wars abroad, Islamophobia, and more.

In “Nakba,” the opening poem of the collection, Kanazi shares his maternal grandmother’s story of fleeing from her homeland, living in exile, and not being able to return home.

she was scared
seven months pregnant
guns pointed at temples
tears dropping
stomach cusped
back bent
dirt pathways
leading to
dispossession

For Palestinians worldwide, Nakba, which literally means “catastrophe,” refers to the period 1947 to 1949 when Zionist colonizers ethnically cleansed 750,000 Palestinians and destroyed 531 villages.

Palestinians leaving a village in Galilee after the creation of Israel in 1948
Photo Credit: Aljazeera [Reuters]

 

Kanazi grew up in a small, predominantly white town in Western Massachusetts where he assimilated American customs. During his teenage years, he learned more about Palestine, but, as the only Arab family in town, he avoided contentious debate. In 2001, four months before 9/11, he moved to New York City.

In an “anti-Arab, Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian kind of world,” Kanazi says during his interview with Now This News on April 29, 2019, “[t]o be Palestinian in the United States is to face erasure; it’s to face marginalization.”

After Kanazi attended his first Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, in 2004, he was inspired to begin writing spoken word poetry. Based on his own receptivity, he realized the potential of using this medium to share his political thoughts with the young generation.

Palestinian-American Poet REMI KANAZI
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

 

The spoken word poet doesn’t sugarcoat his outrage and criticism when addressing human right abuses. In “Until It Isn’t,” he calls our attention to the way we treat death and destruction in Gaza and elsewhere as 24-hour entertainment….

death becomes
exciting
until it isn’t
until boredom sets in
and desensitization begins
until the next ride emerges
somewhere else
more captivating

In the featured poem, “Nothing to Worry About,” Kanazi calls out America’s privileged class—untouched by violence outside of their gated communities—for their double standards in dealing with human rights abuses at home and in America’s war zones.

the world is a messed-up place
rolled off your tongue
like an arrogant excuse

it’s easy to say that
when drone strikes aren’t
leveling your block in Brooklyn
when stop-and-frisk isn’t
haunting your every move
when your baby’s
blood-spattered body isn’t
plastered onto your
Park Slope avenue

When we’re doing well, we ignore the inequities in a system that invests more taxpayers’ dollars in war rather than in social services and a living wage for American workers, as the poet observes in the fifth stanza.

we spend
2.1 million dollars a year
to put a soldier in Afghanistan
35 thousand to lock a Black kid
up with racist laws
a third of that on education
and only 15 thousand dollars
on a minimum-wage job

In the eighth stanza, Kanazi juxtaposes our complicity in the apartheid and genocide of the Palestinian people with that of the incarceration of black and brown-skin people in America’s war on drugs. Our wars on terror and drugs, our politicians tell us, are meant to keep us safe. For democracy. For national security. And we believe.

a Palestinian kid was shot in the back
the bullet subsidized by your tax dollars
the guy you used to deliver your weed
was just sentenced to eight years
in prison with no priors

Lulled into a false sense of security with distractions of all kinds, those of us who enjoy a comfortable life are unaware of the “fire and fury” that could soon threaten our gentrified neighborhood. As the poet notes in his closing ninth stanza:

the drone buzzing will be heard
one day over Brooklyn, but it will
skip your gentrified neighborhood
you have nothing to worry about
we don’t want this messed-up world
to crash your baby’s lullaby

America’s trade war with China escalates. The drums of war beat for Iran and Venezuela. We can continue to live in an alternate reality, believing that we’ve nothing to worry about. OR. We can say “enough” to exterminating one another.

To read the complete featured poem and learn more about the work of Remi Kanazi, go to my Poetry Corner June 2019.

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