Monday, June 08, 2009

...I rarely share poetry that isn't polished, and this one's barely been edited once...
but it's the first thing I've written & completed since I came back from Gaza, so I want to share it, not as a poem so much as stream of consciousness with intentional line breaks and a little bit of rhythm.

I also want to share the photo of a little girl whose family's story, to some extent, inspired this not-quite-poem. Of course it wasn't just their story- it was all the stories- but her story stands out to me, for some reason.

The girl's name is Farah Abu Halima. I didn't take the photo, someone else on my delegation did.
Farah is 3 years old. Her body is covered in burns from the white phosphorous that hit her house. She lost many family members. Her mother survived the attacks & the two of them went to Egypt for medical care. Her mother died in Egypt, and Farah returned alone, still not cured of the burns. Looking at her, I could see that she was still in pain. She is the little girl that did not smile. For some reason it makes it all more intense when I think about how the name "Farah" means "joy."
...Farah's mother's blood is still on the wall of the house. So is white from the phosphorous & black from some other kind of burning. At least I think that's what it's from.
It's hard to remember all the details. I'm glad that some people from my delegation wrote everything down. When we were there, at this particular house, I couldn't think about much except for Farah. The way she kept looking at me, but, when I looked back, turned away, every time. The way that at 25, I'm probably about the age that her mother was. The way my maternal instincts (that I've always claimed I didn't have) kicked in & I wanted to care for her. The raw quality to that feeling that helped me understand what people mean when they say things like "It's not Fatah. It's not Hamas. It's not anything. It's just a child and a war." A child and a war and a fractured family, missing pieces that will never be found. And yes, of course, an illegal occupation and an illegal siege and an illegal war and an illegal State and a racist ideology...but mostly, in the moment, it was just this little girl. I still cannot stop thinking about this little girl.

here is the not-quite-poem:
Reality isn't.
Can't be.
Not like this.
In reality, buildings do not crumble,
fields do not bloom with rubble,
little girls smile,
and old men die before their daughters
grandmothers before their daughters' sons
so Reality isn't
Can't be
Not like this.

Or perhaps,
Reality isn’t.
Can’t be.
Not like this.
In reality, buildings do not stand strong,
Fallic and infallible
In reality small stores do not shelve nine types of pasta,
sixteen flavors of yogurt,
or twenty-four varieties of wine,
In reality,
One cannot rely on
The government
Or electricity
To work for them consistently
Reality isn’t
Can’t be
Not like this.

Politicians strive for reconciliation
Speak of two-state solutions,
And draw borders on paper with omnipotent pens,
Make promises in pencil
Erase them later
When no one is looking

I strive to reconcile too:
My life with yours
The children I’ve never had
With the little ones you lost
Here with there
With everyone
And everything

I strive
I cry
My tears
With yours

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