I Open My Mouth and Sing the World

I Open My Mouth and the Oud Sings the World
I give this oud to my Palestinian friend

I told my friend I had a gift for him
The gift was broken I thought
Beyond repair
I had learned at another time
That brokenness is not permanent
It is not a curse
It isn’t determinative
That something broken when repaired
Is often stronger than
If it had never been broken
At all
About wood I learned this from a Russian repair man in Jerusalem
His name — Heart of the Strings.

This oud
This sound that links my friend to myself
It speaks a language that we share
We share a few words of Hebrew
A few words of Arabic
Our languages are close
Foods the same
Dances close
Music entirely the same
We love the oud
It is the instrument of our long lost relation
Broken many generations ago.

That’s not why I love the oud
I love the oud because the sound is here
In my chest
It is the sound to me of our shared ancestry
We are middle eastern people
We may have lost a relational mutual history
But whenever we hear this instrument
Play it
We remember.

I repaired this oud myself
With the help of my gifted friend
A fixer
I put new pegs in it so it would hold its tuning
I sanded the pegs myself
Found some older pegs that fit better than the original ones
We put a new fingerboard on it
I played this instrument
Repaired it so I could give it to my friend
Whose hands
Like my hands
Will make this instrument sing
Whose voice
Like my voice
Sings the common song we have recovered
In knowing each other —

Let peace rise from our voices
Our hands
The kitchen
From the repairs that we make
From knowing each other
Remembering that we are
Much closer than we think
The same.

jsg, usa