At the Israeli Checkpoint, Palestine (for Mahmoud Darwish, In Memory of the Greatest of Arab Poets)

Sam Hamod

    (for Mahmoud Darwish, in memory of the greatest of Arab poets)

At the checkpoint, the

Israeli private asked me my name, I told

her, my name is

Zaitoun, she asked, what does that mean,

I told her 4,000 year old trees, she laughed,

asked for my real name, I told her, “Dumm,” what?

i said, it means blood, she said, that’s no name, I told her

blood of my grandfather, my father, my uncle

and even mine if necessary, she bridled, called the corporal,

he came running up, said, what kind of threat is that,

I said, it’s no threat, it’s just a fact,

he called the sergeant, he came up and hit me before he spoke,

my mouth bled, I told him, this is the blood I mean, that same

blood, you are afraid of, it’s over 4000 years old, see how dark it is

he called the lieutenant, who asked why my mouth was bleeding,

the sergeant said I had threatened him, the lieutenant asked me

if that was the truth, I told him, I had only stated facts, that

they would be true, after they conferred, he called the

colonel, the colonel came over and asked why I’d been provocative,

I said, all I was doing was stating facts; he asked what I did,

I told him, I was a farmer, he asked what kind, I told him

a farmer with words, what some call a poet—

“yes, now I know your name, Mahmoud Darwish,

you’re well known in Israel,”

he asked me if I knew the work of Amichai, I told him yes,

that I’d met him, that he knew what I meant, that Amichai was

sorry for what he’d felt he “had to do”—the colonel shrugged

dismissed the others and told me, “pass on,

I understand, but they don’t, they are not Jews, I am a Jew,

not a Zionist”

I pulled the qhubz arabi from my pocket, pulled some zaitoun

from another, some jibbin from my bag and gave it to him–

we laughed, he split the bread in half—

we ate together, we laughed at how sad and foolish all this was

* qhubz arabi: bread of the arabs

jibin: arab cheese

zaitoun: olives

 

please see author’s complete biography on the “Home Page,” and in “Author’s Page.”

I’d Rather Not Talk About It (For Palestine…)

Sam Hamod

 

I  really didn’t want

to talk about Ali losing his leg

to an Israeli shell last week, or

samira,scarred still in the hospital

her body napalmed

from a fast moving jet, but

as I said,

i’d rather not talk about it,

but it seems

there is nothing else

we can talk about except, maybe

the zaitoun* trees, the tanks

and bulldozers made short work of them,

but their stumps remain, gravemarkers

some say, but they say,

they’d rather not talk about it

between muffled sobs their women

knot their hands, shake their heads, their

scarves wet from tears, but even they say,

they’d rather not talk about it,

and as for me, I’d feel the same, but

as a poet, I have to give them voice, even though

they say,

they’d rather not talk about it,

I want to, and I want u to know

more about Mahmoud who lost an eye to shrapnel,

to Miriam who lost her 7 year old son

because an Israeli sniper decided he was a threat

as he picked olives in his own orchard, and

I want to talk about Father George, who was on his way

to church on Sunday, but walked too close

to the Israeli wall, and lost his brains

as they scattered along the wall, red and white

as another sniper made sure no one came near

this land they stole from Palestine, and,

Hussein who lost his foot from a cluster bomblet

that had been left behind in Gaza, he was simply

on his way to the mosque to pray on Friday, the

Imam said it was “Allah’s will,,” but I doubt it,

when asked why it was Allah’s will, he said,

I’d rather not talk about it, but we go on,

and, there is another story, behind another bed

in the emergency room, and another stretcher

bleached white with red stains all over,

and,  and,

and, and, and, but I could go on,

but as I said, I’d rather not talk about it,

as they all said, there is nothing to talk about,

nothing,  nothing,  no, 

nothing at all

 

*zaitoun:  olives in Arabic

 

 

PHOTO BY KRISTEN SCOTT

 

Sam Hamod – please see author’s full bio in additional works SPRING ISSUE, Home Page, and Author’s Page.

I HOPE NEVER TO RUN A BULLDOZER (IN MEMORY OF RACHEL CORRIE)

Pietro Grieco

 

Evocating a photo of Tiananmen Square,
An young teen-aged American girl faces a bulldozer
Sent to destroy homes and hopes
Of  Palestinian families

 

The animated film
Shows the Israeli bulldozer
Run down her body,
Slowly crushing her,
Bones mixing her
Blood with that ancient
Palestinian land,
Back and forth,
Back and forth he goes, mashing her
Into the earth and into history,
Because the driver
A patriot man,
A good zionist man
Wanted to be efficient,
Wanted to be sure of 
A work well done

 

Something happens
In my stomach,
Suddenly
All the history of the world
Runs through my veins and my guts
And I fear my temples are going to blow up–
It cannot be true   it is only a film, I say to myself
The Israelis know the Commandments and the Law
They went through infinite sufferings and the holocaust

 

It cannot be true they fear the ire of the Empire
And very easily they can be crushed too,
No, it cannot be true.

 

It is not true
No human being can crush
The body of an innocent girl
Claiming for justice
For human rights and for
Optimism in the world.

 

I know it is not true
No human being
Nor a good Jew
Can such action do.

 

I know it is not true
Because no apology
Will return her life
No prayer will restore
Our feeble hope
No reason will
Suffice our minds.

 

I know it is not true
The friends
The politicians
The judges
The senators
The representatives
The governments
The presidents
The ministers
Even the enemies
The press and all
The powerful of the world
Will act and slam their fist
Will cry with indignation
Will act at the unison
And stop the bulldozers of hate
Jump and save the innocent
With a biblical name

 

The scene wasn’t revised
And none came to save
Idealistic Rachel Corrie,

 

None is hoping to restore
Hope to my shattered hope.
I wish someone would come
And hope to hope with me,
Help to restore meaning
Mending small words:
Life, peace, Love

 

My neighbor, I remember his
Tears in disbelief, he who went
To work ideals in a kibbutz
But left when he could not
Do his biology work with
A machine gun. As these
Things can happen I hope
Never to run a bulldozer
Or watching TV news
Having peacefully
A miserable cup of tea

 

 

 

 

Pietro Grieco

please see Dr. Grieco’s complete bio on the Author’s page and additional works, SPRING ISSUE, 2011

 

 

 

 

Primal Touch

Lisa Suhair Majaj

 

My newborn’s skin was so satiny to the touch
I worried my hangnails would catch and rip her.
I bent my face to her downy head, touching my lips
to the soft curve of her skull, bones soft
and unmolded, hair wispy and damp,  the odor of birth
still emanating from her as if from a new-baked loaf,
musty and sweet. I could have spent forever
with my lips pressed to her infant flesh, but hunger
had other agendas. Her wail pierced my body,
sent electric cramps through my still-open womb,
milk sparking through my nipple, as her toothless gums
clamped down and pulled, tugging milk fiercely
from my deepest core, flooding us both with the essence
of life. It’s the primal touch we don’t remember
that shapes us.  The first time my daughter opens herself
to another’s caress, will her body recall that first flooding of love,
light touch of lips and hands,  life-force expanding in a milky rush
as I drew her body to my body and gave suck?

 

 

please see author’s full bio in additional works and in the Author’s Page.

For Naomi Shihab Nye

Marian Haddad

Granddaughter
of Sitti Khadra,
I did not know you
until I picked
your book off a shelf
over fifteen years ago. 
 

It’s there I first read
about your yellow glove,
a red suitcase, your Uncle
Mohammad and the broom-
maker in Palestine,
the way you made it seem
he was a master
of this one lost art,

 

how he woke up
and began to weave
the seam around the straw,
stitched it into place,
taking such care,
as if it were something
his own wife would wear.
 

The way I saw your name
and it rang clear,
 something in it meant
you were quite like me. 
 

A name—how we relate
to people from our lands,
though I still
have mine, but you
do not
have yours. 
Syria is still
on the map,
and last month
it resonated loud
and clear, your Palestine
has been
erased
from the map
on my friend’s
wall.
 

For some reason, it was then,
I began to study
where every country lay,
and something in me sought
the places of my race,
 

and I began to see
the space between
Syria and Lebanon,
and how it was O.K.—
the separate countries
that they made,
allowed the other
to exist;

 

 I looked for Jordan,
Yemen, The United
Arab Emirates. 
Morocco and El Jazayer,
Berber countries first,
how they embraced
the same language
our grandfathers
spoke, but they, still
able to keep
their own identities.

 

I saw Israel
and thought,
Our neighbors, a part of us,
our space.  A cup of sugar please.
 

And for a moment I forgot
a strange happening.  I began to look
and look for one
country
I once had to name
on an old map.
 

My eye began to scan
the crevices in-between,
and a panic began
to stir somehow
inside the brain.

 

Unable to find
this one lost patch
of land, what color
was it then?
 

And the next second
it came to me.  The way
it’s been erased.

 

Oh, yes.  I cannot even place
my finger atop
it’s geographical brow,
the hump it might have made
under a braille hand
on the raised surface
of a sky blue globe.
 

It then made strange sense
to me, why I couldn’t find it
between it’s cluster
of neighboring spots.
 

I was appalled to think
someone had buried it
while I wasn’t looking
straight, and that I didn’t go
to this one funeral
they must have had
somewhere
to mourn their dead.

 

We hear so often
on the news, a story
somehow far away,
and we
forget to place
this one reality
in our own
dark book,

 

until something wakes us
into shock, and me pointing
my fleshy finger
on a land I once knew
existed there, cancelled
out.  What about Sandy,
and Paul, my brother’s friend,
his father’s father came
from there, her grandfather left it
for L.A., and now,
there is no finding it
again.  The place from which
they stemmed
has blown up, city
of smoke, and the houses
they once villaged in,
 

playing the nigh and the durbuk,
villages where weddings took,
and church bells rang,
or the call to prayer
in a mosque,
 

the children
playing with sticks
in thin alleys
between houses,
the women
baking the sej
and picking mint
out of
their own
small yards.

 

* first published in SCHERHERAZADE’S LEGACY, Ed. Susan Muaddi Darraj 
and RADIO TAHRIR via Barbara Nimri Aziz.

 

Marian Haddad, MFA is a Pushcart-nominated poet, writer, manuscript and publishing consultant, private writing mentor, visiting writer, lecturer and creative workshop instructor.  Her collection of poems, Wildflower. Stone., (Pecan Grove Press, 2011), is the press’s first hardback. Yusef Komunyakaa states that this collection, “…celebrates the observable mysteries of daily existence … these poems have dropped all disguises, and each rides the pure joy of music.  There are superb leaps and silences that deftly highlight the monumental in simple things.” 

Haddad’s chapbook, Saturn Falling Down, was published in (2003). Her full-length collection, Somewhere between Mexico and a River Called Home (Pecan Grove Press, 2004) approaches its fifth printing. Her poems, essays, reviews, and articles have been published in various literary journals and anthologies within the United States and Belgium and have been invited for publication in the Middle East. 

Haddad has taught creative writing at Our Lady of the Lake and Northwest Vista College, and International Literature and American Literature at St. Mary’s University.  Her works in progress include a collection of essays about growing up Arab American in a Mexican American border town.  She writes a blog for the San Antonio Express News

 

 

today i do such simple things

jim saliba

 

i get up

i take a hot steamy shower

wash away the night

i do not run out of water

the water does not bypass my home

on the way

up the hill

to my neighbors

the water runs into my house

washes over my skin

and drips into my open mouth

today i walk downtown to mail an express letter

no one stops me

no one asks me for a pass

i walk to work

no barricades block me

and if i wanted to go and buy a used car

and if i had a son

and i wanted to take my son

to look at

and maybe buy

a used car

i would not worry

we would go and look

at the car

i would not have to search for a concrete barrel

for us to hide behind

i would not have to stop the bullets

with no weapons nothing only my hand

reaching up and waving and shouting

the child the child

to stop them

before they shoot my son

and kill him

i would not worry

because today no one questions

my right to live on this land

we would go and see the car

and if we wanted

we would buy the car

and drive home

today i do such simple things

although today is yom kippur

no one locks me in my house

or barricades my street

i get up and go to work

i earn money to pay rent and buy food

and soap

and postage for the letter

i work on computers

no one questions my religion

or my ethnicity for my job

i do not have to work as a waiter or a builder

but if i chose to work as a waiter or a builder

or on computers

i could work today

no matter whose religious holiday it is

today they would not close my street

or lock me in my neighborhood

because today no one claims

a 3000 year old text makes it right

to throw me out of my home

to take away my land

to say there go to Canada

let the Canadians take you in

nobody questions my right to work

and to shower

and to eat

and to look at

and even to buy

a used cab

today i do such simple things

i hear the birds sing in the tree outside my window

i take a hot steamy shower

my neighbors up the hill do not take all the water for themselves

so i have water to wash and to drink today

i walk downtown and go to work

and if i want

i will go

to look at

and maybe buy

a used car

and if i had a son

i would take him

and i would not worry

my son would not press into my side

to hide from the bullets

and they would not shoot him in his belly

and he would not

die

 

* “this poem is about the death of mohammed al-dura, the 12 year old
palestinian boy who was photographed crouching beside his father,
moments before the boy was shot dead by israeli soldiers, at the
netzarim junction in gaza”  – jim saliba

first appeared in the Texas Observer

 

jim saliba – A descendant of turn-of-the-century Lebanese immigrants and rural Southern farmers, jim saliba grew up in Tennessee and Georgia. He studied drama at Stanford University and studied and taught poetry with June Jordan and her Poetry for the People program at the University of California at Berkeley. jim has constructed and directed performances in austria and california and is the artistic director of h e l p : human elemental laboratory of performance.