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.