Exit Plan – Michigan Quarterly Review

Exit Plan

Winter 2022 | Diana Abu-Jaber Reads "Exit Plan" MQR Sound

Diana Abu-Jaber reads her poem "Exit Plan" from MQR's Winter 2022 issue.
It’s that time again.
I feel it 
like a lost wedding band:
I’m not Muslim, I don’t wear a veil.
Doesn’t matter.
That box is big, it contains multitudes.
I’d almost forgotten 
After years of a kind of calm.
Years of feeling like who you think you are is who you are,
Now that old creature exhales from the crack in the mirror.
The “random checks,”
The searched luggage.
The arms-out, legs-apart,
The I’m going to pat your pockets now.
That time we were held for hours in the “back” at the Canadian border.
That time we were held for hours in the “back” at the Miami airport.
Once again, they’ll be saying who we are.
When someone tacked threats on my office door,
My friends begged:
Change your name, why not change it?
Why don’t I change it?
Just a lost daughter, among a nation of lost daughters,
Claimed by a name I didn’t make.
My Bedouin relatives were born under a burning moon on a scoured desert.
The moon there is bright as a knuckle. It bites like teeth.
The moon scours us down to essence, leaves us shining, undeniable. 
If you’ve forgotten who you are, you have to go to torn up, wild places like this,
The empty quarters, the silent spaces.
I was raised in my mother’s Catholicism
And I asked my father:
Didn’t that hurt you?
No, he said.
Because people who believe
They belong to one family of faith.
Faith in what, Dad?
Oh, he said, faith in the animals,
Faith in the green world.
In the pointed stars
And in the spaces between the stars.
Faith holds the question, he said.
What’s the question, dad?
It’s the question, he said.
When you have faith
You embrace the question,
Live inside of it.
Love it.
In the stillest part of the desert,
Far from the moon,
Wind, horses and night.
Far away from question and answer,
Far from you and me,
There is a seed.
Every time they get you wrong is a seed.
Every name hidden is a seed.
Every word unspoken, a seed.
The seeds are bitter,
And sharp,
They grow in eyes and throats.
Eat them and you may die.
Scatter them,
High and wide.
And they will call down the rain.
Diana Abu-Jaber reads “Exit Plan” for the Winter 2022 video launch.

For more from the Winter 2022 issue of MQR, you can purchase the issue here.

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