Like the English

Iraqi Jews say heart as khalb, like Iraqi Muslims do
but the endearment – my heart – the way you’d call a child

is ghulbie, as it is in Egyptian. Mum doesn’t know why this is.
Iraqi Jews rarely say thanks. They use merci with each other;

shukran only to Muslims. The closest they come to please
is da’hubbuk: I would love you if you –

Mum says, pass me the milk, da’hubbuk. I say, you wouldn’t
love me if I didn’t pass you the milk? She raises her hand

to hit me like you’d hit a drum if you wanted it to ring. She does
that thing she does with her chin. She has her dad’s deep-set eyes

but her expression is her mother’s, is her mother’s sister’s,
is her mother’s sister’s daughter’s. I pass her the milk.

She kisses my face like her mother used to: bordering on violent,
hands clamping my jaw. She calls herself more English than I am

even though I am the one who kisses like the English.



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