My Grandmother the Leo Tells Me About Her Nine Lives

by Jessica Abughattas



“The price of a kiss is your life” — Rumi




In my first life I was a speck

inside my mother, a chord

vaulted in the cathedral

of her throat; a homily.


In my next life I cropped my hair

like a man, worked late nights

in a sock factory.



I lived 100 lives

for you.


In my next life my husband

carved crosses from the wood

of olive trees.


Where a high rise

hotel stands, my love and I

peeled oranges

by the sea.


In my next life I was widowed

when my youngest

child was three.


My eldest married

under a veil of smoke,

only seventeen.


And I have died

100 more times.


My first death,

when barbed wire

kissed my scalp,

I walked to the medic

past men

who would have shot at me.


By my second death

I could afford a telephone.

I left my house

arranged perfectly.


Neighbors called

to ask how I could leave

before we kissed goodbye.

I told them god

has written this fate for me,


and when I go…

do not cry for me.

I have mustered

enough tears

to drown the shores

of Tel Aviv.


I do not wish for love;

I loved my husband.

I do not wish for wealth;

we had a palace…

we lived for 10 years



When we arrived

at the apartment, we slept


on one mattress at first,

your mother

and aunt and me.


I want nothing;  


and everything good

I owe to you—


When I crossed

the border

into Amman

I fell on my knees

I kissed the ground 100 times.