We received our Canadian citizenship
at the immigration office
between Costco and the highway.
For the ceremony we were asked
to turn off our phones. We raised our right hand.
to the queen. We sang the Canadian anthem
in English. In French we only moved our lips.
A tall and slim judge spoke before us;
at the end she asked,
“What ties us to the land?”
I thought of the broom
always standing by the door
to my parents’ house. My mother
sweeping out the red Hamra soil
that kept invading the house from the garden.
It was a daily battle
that tied us to this stubborn land.
But the judge quoted a First Nations chief
who said: stories. Only stories tie us
to the land. A land without a story
would always remain an exile.
My mother is buried in the land
by the shores of Galilee. That’s a story.
Where Jesus fed thousands
with five loaves of bread and two fish.
Where my grandparents arose from the sea,
starving animals from Europe,
and for the first time in their lives saw palm trees
planted in neat, orderly rows. We sat in rows
and held little Canadian flags we had to wave
at the end of the ceremony. Maybe it’s our wounds
that tie us to the land.
Like a wound formed in the lining of the uterus
when an embryo takes hold.
“I wish you only good stories,”
the judge smiled and we all clapped.
We were citizens now.
We could stay for as long as we wanted.
Tell stories about this land
for the rest of our lives, tell of ourselves,
forget our previous chapters –
the wars, the anxiety, this whole business
of the persecuted Jew,
and the heavy sorrow, stifling
as a grave. We could have turned it all to a distant memory
together with the burning heat, the insistence of the sand.
In all our years in Canada we never bought a broom
the land never entered our house
it didn’t ask us to die for it
it didn’t wound any of us, I think
it didn’t even remember us,
I doubt if it even felt
when we packed our belongings
and went back.
Translation from the Hebrew