Do jasmines live in Berlin?
Do they bloom in Oslo, Boston, or London?
On an evening stroll in Prenzlauer Berg,
will I be intoxicated
by the hedonistic smell of a wild jasmine?
What if I take my jasmine tree with me
when I leave?
Googling: How to smuggle trees across international borders?
Googling: Prison time for cross-border jasmine smugglers.
I want to savor the jasmine flowers blooming
from my balcony. I want to chew the tender
white buds and digest them.
When we were children, the grownups warned us
against eating watermelon seeds lest they grow into trees
in our bellies. If I eat jasmine seeds,
will a jasmine shrub grow in my belly?
I can then carry it with me wherever I go,
a fragrance of my home living inside of me—
maybe it can replace the powdered glass
that nestles in my lungs,
dilute the nitrate and the carbon monoxide that chokes
my liver. I will drink water and sit in the sun,
perhaps the jasmine will grow and twine around
my leaky, charred heart.
Then again, if it is not a Mediterranean sun?
If I lose my sense of smell, do I lose my childhood?
I used to believe this was an optical matter,
once the eye adjusts to a given space, it cheats
the brain into registering familiarity,
but not belonging.
How many times can one leave their home
before it stops being
home? Does home ever stop?
Is it possible
to cry when you are sleeping?
Author's note: I would like to thank Rima Rantisi, Fady Joudah, and Rana Issa for their invaluable feedback and support.
Sana Tannoury-Karam is a writer and a historian of the modern Middle East. She is writing a book on the cultural and intellectual history of the left in Lebanon during the Mandate period. Her work has appeared in a range of publications including the Journal of World History, Rusted Radishes, Jadaliyya, Megaphone, and Trafo-Blog for Transregional Research. She lives between Beirut and Berlin and is currently a EUME fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien.