My father gave me a difficult name.Inside it sit two letters that don’t exist in English.My father didn’t know I wouldhave English-speaking friends,always asking how to pronounce my name,or trying to avoid saying it.But Dad, I like to hear others address me by name,especially friends.Even my name’s root means difficult.A camel that is described as Mosabis one that’s difficult to mount and ride.But I’m not difficult in any way.I will undress myself and show youmy shoulders, how dust has come to rest on them,my chest, how tears have wet its thin skin,my back, how sweat has made it pale,my belly, how hair has covered my navel,the spot where my mother fed me before birth.The same spot, they say, the angel of deathwill pierce to take away my soul.And now, at night, my son’s head hurtswhen he rests it on my belly.And my clothes, I feel them loose,while others see them tight on me.When someone from the life insurance company callsand pronounces my name in English,I see the angel of death in the mirror,with eyes that watch mecrumbling onto this foreign ground.
Mosab Abu Toha is a Palestinian poet and the author of Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear (City Lights Books, 2022). The founder of the Edward Said Library, Gaza’s only English-language library, he is a former visiting poet at Harvard’s department of comparative literature. Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear is shortlisted for the Palestine Book Awards 2022.
San Francisco, California
"Written from his native Gaza, Abu Toha's accomplished debut contrasts scenes of political violence with natural beauty: In one poem, a 'nightingale departs the wet earth' two stanzas before the 'sound of a drone / intrudes.'"
— The New York Times
"There is a duality to the poems, a contrast of beauty and violence. Images of dust, concrete, and gunfire tell a story of growing up under siege. These same elements will stay with the reader for days. The book is very visual both in language and in photographs that make the lines hit even harder. Some of the forms and line breaks feel loose, but they are made with passion and striking details."
"The sensational young Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha deftly harnesses the raw power of words and imagery to expose the cruel and often absurd realities of sustaining life in a city under siege. Abu Toha, who reflects on his family's prolonged statelessness, is a literary warrior for whom crafting poetry is an act of resistance against the occupying power. ... His debut poetry collection offers emotionally frank vignettes as well as an extended interview conducted by Ammiel Alcalay. The poetry cracks open a window to the stark realities of life for Gaza's struggling residents, with Abu Toha serving as a gentle yet insistent messenger who whispers: 'Look, see our wounds, they are real.'"
— Shelf Awareness, starred review