Two Poems for Palestine

Mandy Shunnarah


they stop torching our cities long enough to pray1

A February night, our cities are ablaze—wildfire
set upon our four walls, our belongings, so our
murderers can play pretend at belonging
where they are not wanted & are not from.

Houses combust with families inside. The torchers
carry metal rods, ready to beat what they cannot
burn; ready to burn what they haven’t yet stolen;
ready to steal what they don’t plan to bulldoze.

It happens in the villages of Nablus: Huwara, Za’tara,
Burin, Beita, Odla, & Beit Furik. Others, still, in villages
in Ramallah, Hebron, & Jerusalem. & those are just
the ones you know about; the ones the English language

news reported on, complete with photos of the apocalypse
come knocking. The land of milk & honey they spoil
with ash & sour with blood. It’s how you know this place
isn’t theirs. We know better than to shit where we eat.

& then, a lull in the rampage—flames remain but
accelerants are capped; bruises bloom but
metal rods clang to the ground; bulletholes
gape but gun barrels point downward, away.

We watch as our torturers pray in a language we wish
our survival didn’t dictate we know. They thank god,
calling the land a gift & we wonder how people who burn
what they’ve been “given” could deserve anything.

On what day of creation was god the architect of hell?
In which beginning was it decided each creation myth
must accompany destruction? There’s a reason
torcher sounds like torturer. One people’s end

of days is another’s deranged origin story;
one’s extermination is another’s holy rapture.

1February 23, 2023


only an american

Just like the Brits to rename our country
with a P: a letter we don’t have, a sound
our tongues wrestle to say. It’s not Palestine
like old buddy, old pal, old friend, but Falastin.
They’d know Arabic is phonetic if they could
read, but that’s an occupier for you—unwelcome
guest. We have names impossible to mispronounce
& yet they expect the world to say it their way.

In their new country, my grandparents
give their children “good American names”
impossible to mispronounce by the native-born
of this land. They called their first child, a daughter,
Patricia—with a P. Because who would believe
an umma & baba from Falastin would name their
child with a letter their mouths refused to speak,
damned to a lifetime calling her Badrisha.

Only an American would do that.


Mandy Shunnarah (they/them) is an Alabama-born, Palestinian-American writer of essays, poetry, short stories, and journalism who now calls Columbus, Ohio, home. Their first book, Midwest Shreds: Skating Through America’s Heartland, is forthcoming from Belt Publishing. Read more at
Cover image credit: Gaza-born artist Malak Mattar, When Family Is the Only Shelter, 2021.
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