Some of you may have noticed I failed to post a ‘Thursday Poem’ segment yesterday. If you didn’t – good thing I’m here to remind you of my mistakes! The truth of the matter is that I felt nine kinds of suffocated beneath an angry black cloud; I was so hurt and depressed at the events occurring in Gaza and elsewhere that I could scarcely think sometimes, let alone consider a blog.
Some days, I just wept. I’ve watched videos of people stumbling through rubble-strewn streets full of dead bodies. I’ve seen too many headlines, and too many photos of people that look just like me, like my brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, only covered in blood and wounds, faces contorted in grief. And then came one story, casually referenced on Twitter, and it broke me all over again.
Then, when I should’ve been getting ready to go see a friend for much needed relief, I found myself writing through the tears, trying to make sense of what I was feeling. This is not some baseless screed against Israel, whose right to exist I do not question, though it is certainly responsible for too many of these horrors, nor is this is a declaration of support for Hamas, whose hands are also stained. This is my response to a story, to a life, that hit me too hard. This is my sadness, and my fear.
This Miraculous Terrorism
My tears are ineffective missiles,
Hamas-hurled, Israel-born. If only
I had more funding, state-of-the-art
GPS navigation, I could guide them
to bless the right soldiers, the ones
without guns, untrained and still young,
the little snakes-to-be, the ones dying.
How is it that I can hear their screams
and feel their mourning, their subtle ghosts,
even though I sit deaf, hands folded,
eyes closed, an ocean away? The flashes
of cameras, and the twitching of fingers
(accompanied by the antiseptic drawl
of reporter-speak), can only account
for so much. Why am I crying so fucking hard?
When tears dry up, when I am emptied of loss
will the US kindly resupply my stock? Sorry,
this isn’t — I’m not trying to be — I’m just tugging
on this invisible line tying my chest to Palestine;
I don’t know when it got there, or which fisherman
sunk his hook so deep. But it isn’t just one line
is it? No, it’s a multitude, a madman’s cat-cradle
criss-crossing the world, set to twang
every time someone says the word ‘Muslim’,
the label on the net I was caught in from birth.
It’s been getting tighter and tighter every year,
and now our skin is fetish-marked fishstocking
and we are all marred as one. Maybe this is why
as these children die, and men and women burn
beneath this name, this dog-tag embedded in our eyes.
I feel their grief, their death, as if it were my own. It is
my name too, it is my grief too, it is my heart too, it is
my children too, and my death toll forever. That accounts
for some of it, but not all. I hear the air sirens in Tel Aviv,
I hear the death-chants on the streets, I taste their fear,
as a distant echo, as the other side to this bitter coin.
Right now though, as I sit here shaking and weeping,
I cannot escape the call of my name shouted so often,
ringing in the shrill music of missiles singing. I cannot
stop thinking about Shayma Sheikh Khalil, 5 days old,
prematurely born via caesarian section
on July 26, 2014, 10 minutes after her mother died
in an Israeli airstrike. They called her a “miracle baby”
for surviving, for being pulled out of familial death
and into life. However, she died
July 30, 2014, when her incubator shut off
after the power plants in Gaza were attacked.
I could not write those words, could not type them—
thank god for copy + paste, thank god for reporter-speak
otherwise you’d have only my trembling, my aching
grief, my tears to translate into meaning. Shayma
is merely a pebble in a blood-strewn avalanche:
over 1300 dead. 433 a week. 61 a day. Two an hour.
Such efficiency of horror. Such methodical death
tearing gaping holes in this fishing net, letting the bodies
rise to the surface to line the streets like grisly buoys.
I cannot think anymore. I cannot speak anymore.
I cannot feel anymore, or see through the shame.
When even miracles are killed in their infancy
in their first blue blush of life,
can you imagine what comes next? Dare you even try?
(pictured, Shayma Sheikh Khalil)
Photo from Humanize Palestine; the caption, too, was remixed into the poem.