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Shish Barak

Spiced mince, pine nuts and onions.
I prepare the dough for shish barak.
Arabic food takes too long to prepare
each meal has too many steps    
but it’s the only real time I get to spend with Mumma.

The lines around my mother’s green eyes crinkle
as she tries to tell me of the moment her mother died.
‘I only six-year-old in the camps all the in Ain El Hilweh,’
she tells me in English, her accent heavy as dumplings.
She gave up trying to make me speak Arabic ages ago.  

Mumma goes on:
‘I fetch the water. Cook the rations all.’
‘Wash clothes camp with only two hands.’
‘I pull the wheat when the plane of British fly above my head.’

I can see Ras Al Ahmer, Palestine in my head  
as my mother and I begin to fill the dough with the mince.
‘I see my mama go to Jannah after that. One day too us.’

Then my mother smiles in soft lines:
‘No sadness. The salt is good.’

The next time I eat shish barak it is in Lakemba.
The dough is too thin, the mince falls through my hands
but the salt is always good. 

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