Nomi Stone

The Etymology of “Alaasa” [علاسة]
March 8, 2015 Stone Nomi

The Etymology of “Alaasa” [علاسة] (“Wartime Snitching”), a Word Which Emerged on the Streets of Baghdad at the Height of the 2003 Iraq War.


In 2006, the word
choked alert,
began to feed.
The lexicons spoke

of its early
life: it meant to eat
most especially wheat
three grains to

a husk. Such good
quality but so difficult
to cleanse. It is a black
grain, and you will

consume it but only when
desperate. It came to
mean embroidery,
a nervous raising

of needles into cheek
of cloth, metaphorically
the clicking of talking
like an itch, a twitch: bad

mouthing, getting
told on; also theft
of words; theft of
whomever you said

you were; no, theft
of who you
were; the limit of
cash for which you

give away my
coordinates. Bet on
this debt; open the content
of your net. In it our
every spring night.

Nomi Stone is the author of the poetry collection Stranger’s Notebook (TriQuarterly, 2008). Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, Memorious, The Painted Bride Quarterly, cellpoems, The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish Poetry, The Margins at The Asian American Writer’s Workshop, at The Poetry Foundation, and elsewhere. She is currently researching and writing Kill Class, a collection of poetry based on her ethnographic fieldwork on combat simulations in mock Middle Eastern villages erected by the US military across America.