Ode to a Lover from the Enemy State

A Poem

By Nada Ahmed


I promised myself not to think of politics
this time, we planned our vacation far off
from the world of false political neutrality 
here in my town they say “we love Israelis” 
with their fluency in Hebrew, how could you ever doubt it? 
It made me wonder if I was one of them 
claiming ‘peace’ on the lands of olives and palm trees
the sea spattered dead memories, the waves relentless 
the summer breeze reconciled our indifference to the people
here was I making love to you, if as a child
I’d imagined I would fall in love with someone
from the enemy state, but how could I think that?
Oh we laughed and cried as I told you the story of demonstrating
in solidarity with the Palestinian Indifada back in two thousand 
I led the teenage political movement against 
what we were told was the enemy
damn it, I forgot to ask you how you felt about it
living on the other side of the borders, witnessing a war
unravel into a conflict of cultural identity. 

I secretly recorded our three-hour conversation on identity
now as I listen to it, memories befall heavily 
the look on your face and the way your lips moved
saying “I’m half Arab,” you knew we knew not 
what that meant for us, two lost identities in a world
thriving on false identification, I explained it was built on mendacity 
why people in my country identify as Arab, digging so fiercely
to uproot from their African origins, whitening their faces 
mocking the rituals of music and dance, my skin colour and curly hair.

on our vacation, you tried to make me feel less troubled 
about how the locals deemed our relationship;
a whore with a rich tourist from the enemy state—saying 
“it doesn’t affect us,” but it did in the way their faces grinned 
at me, a hint of sexual violence towards women of ‘the same culture,’
belonging back in their father or husbands’ houses, not here alone 
publicly showing intimacy to a man from the state enemy
to which they had to fake a smile and answer all demands
“you came here with your shekels and Jewish privilege,” I said,
“yet, to them, I came here only with my vagina and appetite for sex,”  
“so it doesn’t matter if I pay for my own drink.” 
all that they were taught in the history books, about the religious tension 
and the war to be waged against the Jews, was not far-fetched.
because in our little world, my love, they’re bound to win
by keeping us apart, for how long will our intersectionality prevail 
against their vicious resistance? If only they’d know of this endless
quest to cultivate beyond the Muslim-Jewish-Arab pithiness.

and thus, for the fear of forfeit, I conversed your views on Zionism,
hoping I hid the tears well when you told me we’d been in this together 
for two years, for our love is timeless yet held in a space of cultural 
repression, and we fail to admit the Middle East could be no place 
for validity. This once I felt alone in the contradiction, you kissed my forehead
all the way into my third eye, and the connection unfolded and sprung 
all over the glaring seabed, you dove gracefully beside an eagle ray, 
forces of nature unheeding to the struggle onshore. This once we knew
love was but a waiting game, waiting for our political wounds to heal,
waiting for our cultures to evolve, waiting for our identity to find a place to belong.