I Am Looking for You Here

Angie Mazakis

I Am Looking for You Here




We walk down Kedzie Street in Chicago

to al Salaam, all men in the restaurant

except for me, and order m’jadara and coffee.

I decorate the paper menu with words I know

in the Arabic alphabet. I can fit all of them

in the margins.

I drink the coffee until what remains

at the base of the mug is wet sand collected in a pail.

There is no word in Arabic for “consistency”.

The restaurant smells like allspice and parsley, and

if I stare deep into the wet coffee grounds to keep

my eyes from the windows—

the rain on the oak trees, and listen

to you speaking Arabic with the waiter, 

I can imagine that I am in Tyre or Sidon or Beirut

and we have just been shopping

on Hamra Street or swimming in the Mediterranean,

like my dad used to.  I ask what he remembers about Palestine.


I remember walking down the street in Haifa

with my sister Teresa, being chased

by a rooster. I don’t remember what

happened, how we got away. It’s like

being chased in a dream and you wake up

before you find out how it ends.




I tell him how last week I received

a letter from a stranger:

“We have the same last name.

Are we related?

My father was born in West Jerusalem,

fled to Jordan.”


I leave olives on my plate and

think about them being picked

from the same tree,

sent to different factories, packed in

separate jars, then finding their way

in another country to the same dish. 


I remember my father screaming

at my mother;

Leave everything. We’re coming back.”


While we drove from Haifa to Beirut,

My father wore a fedora through the Jewish areas,

And through the Arab areas, he wore a fez,


My memories become dispossessed.

As I sift my fork through the rice,

I extract all the French out of his Arabic.

I try to make my memories switch places with his


so that my sister and I are shopping alone,

only we are not in a shopping center

in Indiana, we are on Ben Yehuda street

in Jerusalem and I am 11 and she is 7.

She has disappeared not into a shoe store

but in some outdoor market and my heart is the same,

everywhere--it races, takes off with her. I look for colors

first then her face among shawls and lowered eyes.

I stop to watch a preying mantis on a window,

then, as though it is relevant, allowed. My mind

wrongly allows me time to watch it traverse the glass.

Its spiny limbs slow my thoughts and then behind me I hear

roosters, and a blast. One first then the other.

And now looking for her is like watching the bulldozers

rolling over graves.


when there was shooting

we hid in the neighbor’s house.

In the inside room.




When I find my sister, back safely at my

dad's Arab restaurant in Indiana I am

11, and I do not call out, “Nushkur Allah.”


There is no word is Arabic for “to miss”,

like “to miss someone?” I ask.




So, what did you say when you were here

in America and you missed your mother?


In Arabic, we say, I am looking for you

here, but I can't find you.




The birthplace on his passport is

a place he has never heard of.

“We do not recognize Palestine,” they told him,

“in America.” His birthplace on his passport

is a place that is uninhabited.

There is no word in Arabic for “is”.


* * *


At the intersection of Lawrence and Kedzie

we stop in one of the small Arab shops

where we can buy labne and phone cards—

“Call from here to Egypt, 20 cents a minute.”

I keep my eyes on the shelves,

the jars of olives and grape leaves,

and listen to you speaking Arabic with the cashier,

and I imagine that I am in Jerusalem or Bethlehem,

that he never left, that we have just shared

mangoes from his neighbor’s tree

and this is the shop we come to every week,

that he knows the shopkeeper, and then,

“Dad, Which halawa should I buy?”—

it is my own voice, speaking English,

that brings me back here to Chicago,

just north of the suburb where I have come

to visit, Virginia to Illinois,

a modest distance.


They told me that when I was three,

I was at my grandmother’s house,

eight blocks away. Winding roads, not like here.

My mother heard me outside, calling her name.

I was three years old and I found my way back

through eight blocks of winding roads.

I found my way home. I don’t remember this, though.

It is only what I was told.




Angie Mazakis
Angie Mazakis

Angie Mazakis received an MA from Ohio University and an MFA from George Mason University. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The New Republic, Boston Review, Narrative Magazine, Best New Poets 2008, New Ohio Review, Smartish Pace, NOÖ Weekly, and Miracle Monocle. She has received a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize, runner-up in the New Letters poetry contest, second prize in the 2011 New Ohio Review poetry contest, and was recently a finalist for the 2012 Indiana Review poetry prize. She currently lives in Huntington, West Virginia.