The corner where the blue car is parked
faces the house of my grandparents.
The car was the taxi owned by Ahmad Farraj
my grandmother’s relative.
It sits by the corner built of limestone
I liked leaning my back into it as a child.
It is where my grandfather sat
with his small transistor radio in the summer afternoon.
Above us the sand martins
would fly in and out of the windows
of the abandoned house on the second floor.
I still hear their sound filling the sweet air.
My uncle Mahmoud walking in Ajami neighborhood;
it was probably a Sunday morning
on his way back to the hospital.
The woman at the window is the neighbor, Emily Madbak.
She was born in Gaza to a family from Jaffa.
The old man at the cafe door is Issa Khimel.
His father was hanged in the Clock Square
by the Turks for spying for the British
together with two other people;
one of them was a priest.
His daughter Labibe stands at the window above the cafe.
The man in the white jacket is a Polish barber.
The man with the sunglasses is
El Imam, who always sat in El Binni cafe.
He was married to Ane.
Her sister Karkura didn’t talk to her.
A group of men standing below a balcony.
The one in the yellow shirt
is Abu George Shibli.
His boat once grazed the rocks in Jaffa’s port.
The sea was high.
The girl with the schoolbag could have been my mother.
The grand red house overlooking the sea
is the house where Ibrahim Bilbesi
and his son Hussein, my grandfather,
sought shelter after the war.
They stayed there for two months
until the army came and forced them to leave.
My mother was born in the house
with the cement stairs.
Their neighbors were
Ahmad Farraj was a kind man, he always drove my mother to El Areesh.
He was married to Margo, a Kurdish Jew from Iraq.
They had two children, a son living in Tel Aviv and
a daughter living in Jaffa.
I never met them.
Ahmad had a brother in Lebanon
that he never saw again.
My uncle Mahmoud walking in Ajami neighbourhood;
it was probably a Sunday morning
on his way back to the hospital again.
There is another red house, with a balcony.
I once made love on the first floor.
On my last day, during my last visit,
I walked by the house.
I stopped because I saw a German film crew
repeating a scene:
a young woman stands at the door,
she is received by a woman her age
who seems surprised to see her,
then a man comes out of the door
and walks towards her.
They kiss passionately.
It was 9 in the morning
a quiet Sunday morning,
I was walking back from the port.
I passed by my grandparents’ house
then walked across the street
and passed by Emily’s house
where the window is.
Now the room has no roof
and the window has metal bars.
She still lives in the house.
I passed by the street, passing several doors,
I could recognize them all from the picture.
I stopped and thought I should take a picture
to remember the names written on the doors:
The next door had no name
but only a poster of a springtime scene.
A man saw me stopping
and walking back to take a picture.
„A picture lasts longer than a human being“
The streets of my childhood
and my adolescence.
The street behind Angel Hamati’s house
where the mosque is.
The stairs leading to the water tower.
Zaki Khimel tells me it is he
who is standing at the window
and not his sister Labibe.
I remember it was 4 in the morning
when I looked out of the window
to see a film crew filming.
He worked at sea
and was married to Raafat’s sister.
He called himself Levi to find work in Tel Aviv.
He is the tallest man in Jaffa.
Ibrahim El Binni
A little girl, Diana or Rima.
AN UNUSUAL SUMMER
Once there was a fig tree
that we cannot see
in front of a house
that is not our house
and there was a garden
with the giant fig tree
As a child I spent summers
climbing the fig tree
filling straw baskets with green figs
big as apples
My sister was more courageous
Our bodies itching from the fig leaves
My uncle Issa came back one day
I overheard that the Red Cross
allowed him to visit his mother.
It was a hot summer
he spent every day in the garden
cleaning and digging
around the fig tree
Before he left, he engraved my name
on the fig tree
Years later the bulldozers came
uprooted the garden and the tree
I stood there
my father arrived in his car
It was too late
I never tasted figs again
I was coming back from school
A relative stood at our door
she didn’t want me to come in
my grandmother had passed away
A woman with short dyed blond hair
she was a criminal;
she ran off
with my grandmother’s gold
and her son’s ring
Inscribed on the ring was his name
he was her eldest son
he went to Beirut
and later died there
This was before 1948
My grandmother lost her mind
when she lost her ring
She went to the local shop
several times a day
to buy bread
The shopkeeper loved to sing
he sang a song
every time someone came in
he was born in the Galilee,
and he loved his wife Marie
In 2018 his grandson was shot
in front of him
by a gang
The entire town mourned him
In 1967 my father drove his car
to the refugee camp in Jericho
he was looking for his brother Issa
hoping to bring him back to Ramle.
He found the camp, he was not there
“I stayed there for 3 days
waiting, and waiting
hoping he will come back,
I ran after chickens to have
something to [TH1] eat”
He was six years old
when his country was occupied
his family was resettled
in this house
It’s unfinished to this day
His neighborhood was named
My father had strong arms,
he collected cactus
with his bare hands
He collected cactus
to make a living
as a child after the war
with his friend Hanna
I was born in the Ghetto.
When I visit
I don’t take taxis home
not even from the airport
I don’t want to say
“Take me to the Ghetto”
I don’t like my family taking me
to the airport either
Once we were stopped
at the airport checkpoint
armed men took our IDs
we waited endlessly for no reason
My father stayed in the car.
As we drove away he said
“It’s not our country anymore”
My father and my mother met
at the fair
just behind the fig tree
they married on the rooftop
overlooking the fig tree
The night of their wedding
the band played a song
My father was arrested
He was released the same night.
My father smoked cigarettes
and played magic tricks
he could chew and swallow lit buds
and pretend they were gone
He opened his mouth
the cigarette is gone
He opened his mouth again
the cigarette is between his teeth
A game he loved to play