by Mark Chmiel

Dear Layla

We are staying with the Hijazzi family these nights
We arrive in time to break the fast in the evening

Spend the evening then sleep over
Leave around 7 in the morning

Yesterday we were quietly eating very early
Sitting on the floor

Johnny Yau and I
The parents and their four kids

As I am eating foule
We hear gunshots like they were next-door

And I must have jumped off the floor
A few inches I was so unnerved

The father said matter-of-factly
“It’s the sniper tower a couple blocks away”

Everyone kept eating
Except for me and Johnny

From across the room
Barakat the 16 year-old

Calmly walked toward me
Sat down beside me  then put his arm around my shoulders

And whispered
“You OK?”

“Uh…not really”
“I know … this is how it is here”

Because of people like Barakat
I’m slowing  learning  how to be OK with not being OK


Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine