To See the Black Angel

at the time of the assault on Gaza, 2008-9

To see the Black Angel                                                 
not descending from heaven
but risen still incandescent
out of the earth’s core
and the opening of Hell
swan-diving upward
a neural fire-arrow
through the sullen mantle
and ancient sea-bed
then the villages and stones
of Palestine Israel
leaving a hollow stem of glass
like lightning’s return stroke
a gush of terrene blood
in the shape of a woman

To see the Black Angel
cooling as she ascends
over scrub trees and low hills
scatters of wreckage
burnt-out trucks
eviscerated homes
fragments of char and bone
brass and depleted uranium
broken asphalt
then layers of night air
thermals upthrusting
into the Father’s cool vault
slow-motion drift of planets
freeze-frame of galaxies

To see the Black Angel
as her wings widen
feathered with overlaid night
glinting like Aztec blades
She soars over the cities of men
cooling to perfect black
black smooth as obsidian
agile as latex remorseless as iron
streamlined as orca
her hair long streamers of ink
her eyes fumaroles
her breasts like the spaces
around a star’s core
her sex a singularity
parting like a seed
into new physical laws
her lips in a terrible smile

To see the Black Angel
swinging a flail of sparks
as she swoops low over rooftops
Her flail reaches down
fine bright as medusa tendrils
through sleeping ceilings
of tenements and shelters
into beds into bodies
Women stir beside men
as the fire-knots brush them
From the midpoint of their spines
behind the solar plexus
news travels in all directions
up to the brain and its eyes
down to the womb
out to the callused feet
the meticulous fingers

To see the Black Angel
watching the women’s skulls
room by room street by street
hut by shack by torn tent
strung lanterns fluxing with glow
as cortical zones become active
designs for infernal machines
sketched in neon 3-D
as their vulvas flicker
into fuchsias of wet flame
their hips remember to be palaces
their hearts flex and stretch
immense paradoxical demons
winged with violet vessels

To see the Black Angel
passing over all sparing none
so the women dream
of smiles like dark birds
on their lips girl-full
mother-pursed or crone-fissured
They dream of men kneeling
begging forgiveness
of tears in men’s eyes like a tide
as the Angel passes over
of knives fallen like leaves
machine-pistols and RPGs
abandoned among the stones
by the Father’s armies

To see the Black Angel
with the terrible smile
her flail knotted with light
making the women dream
of filling the streets
immense flocks of birds
crowding over the rubble
over stain-maps of blood
past cars twisted scorched
the skulls of dogma
they dream of governments
and parties imploding
like bomb-struck buildings
blast waves in reverse
time’s arrow like the Angel
flung back from the Omega

To see the Black Angel
passing over moving on
as the women dream of power
and of waking to make it
they dream of all the lords
lords of oil and mirrors
of smoke and water
lords of light and money
of love and shadow

in Tel Aviv Washington

London Beijing Riyadh
of all these lords descended
by sighing elevators
from their armored heavens
shrunk into men trembling
in expensive rags
as all those they used for so long
dance with mouths open
drinking solar wine

To see the Black Angel
when Hell reclaims the world
as a forest of branching flame
a garden of unbound spirits
every leaf every root holy
under the oxygen eyes
of Gaia into whose body
the Angel has returned
black as abandoned veils
as the inside of touch
a drop of black ink
abruptly silvered
by a four-dimensional mirror
in the shape of a woman
a woman striding
taller than thought itself
whose face reflects the unbounded
in the faces of all
the living on earth

 

 

Copyright: B'Tselem "The Abu Sbeikhah family home today." Photo by Muhammad Sabah, B'Tselem. http://www.btselem.org/photoblog/20131225_al_maghazi

petrol poiesis

for Ashraf Fayadh, my free-the-poet(s)!

possibly poverty’s

just a butterfly’s trace

a horse made of teeth

of banished naked mothers

petroleum-style-tongueless

as in desert-sand-mute

no petrol pump enough

to water enough flowers

for fired fire-fighters

as in poets

as in not enough tears

to say

if lashes were eyelashes

to carry morning dew

to water love

we’d put the fire out

this big big gas gas fire

that seems to have burned

the eye

and lashes alone

are not beautiful enough

as in not beautiful at all

to banish banishment

hearing a mouth

crack against a sink

still struggling to mumble

not to lose resuscitated souls

losing asylum

standing the silenced queue

possibly the end of

petrol-is-petrol-is-petrol-is-prison-

is-poem-is-poem-is-poem-is-water-style

optimism

for broken-hearted-we-the-people

post-brexit-style psychotic

who forget there’s also

broken-hearted-we-the-poets

we-the-families we-the-fighters

you-the-poet-the-fighter

you-the-artist

you-the-person

as in you are more human

than your punisher

as in if lashes were eyelashes

your eyes would be more beautiful

just starlike enough

to water enough flowers

and banish banishment

just for one child

whose silenced smile

would sing

and make the angels cry,

as in if lashes were eyelashes

your eyes would be two butterflies

poetry wouldn’t seem so out-dated

so weak and old

and useless

waiting for asylum

in the buried guts of dead-born doves

and wilted trees,

wouldn’t seem necessary enough

wouldn’t have jaw enough

wouldn’t have soul enough

as in

lashes are never Just lashes

are silence

are fear

are please-resist

and lamma sabacthani

as in eyelashes are never just lashes

that make us bleed

as in eyelashes are never just corpses

searching for meaning in guilt

as in if we bled painting

we would make murals out of suffering

or at least I hope we would, walls

the eye colour of the dead

to remind us

of all the dust in the world

and the little head

that breaks against a stove

from whose white bones

we invented prisons

floors the colour of haemorrhage

cause it seems it is the only proof

for tanks’ scopes and bayonets

and whips and guns and ammo

measuring the distance between being

person and not being human

that what we are

is never who we are

or that if we are we are not sorry

you know how they say

better to be story

than to be sorry

that if we are we are story

and present and memory

and guts and pulses

and tears and cries we

and sons and daughters

and children and orphans

and love stories we

and

and I’m sure you are too

and or I’m sure you try

and you the punishers

and you the hurters

and you the sad sad people

how can you kiss your children

good night

after your humanity’s been

oil burned

as in if lashes were eyelashes

good-nights wouldn’t hurt children that much

and lives wouldn’t be so fucked up

or maybe we’re all wrong

and you’re not alive to begin with

maybe you kill that much

with hope that corpses

will turn again into petroleum

or is it jealousy and sadness

and sadness and sadness

don’t try killing your children

to see if after rotting

they burn enough to move a plane

just don’t

instead teach them to write

and maybe one day and one night

you’ll have found

a peacefuller sense of gasoline

and sadness and sadness and sadness.


“Because of frequent aggression by the settlers and soldiers, I don’t allow my sons to take the sheep grazing any more. I don’t want to lose my boys. I’m always worried and scared. I asked them to find other work, but once you’re used to the sheep it’s hard to change. Sheep are tied in with our earliest memories. How can we even consider selling them and buying cheese and yoghurts from shops, when we used to supply them?!” Na’amat Shtiyeh, 57, from Salem. Photo shows Taher Shtiyeh’s farm, Salem Copyright: Faiz Abu Rmeleh, Activestills.org; B'Tselem

“Because of frequent aggression by the settlers and soldiers, I don’t allow my sons to take the sheep grazing any more. I don’t want to lose my boys. I’m always worried and scared. I asked them to find other work, but once you’re used to the sheep it’s hard to change. Sheep are tied in with our earliest memories. How can we even consider selling them and buying cheese and yoghurts from shops, when we used to supply them?!” Na’amat Shtiyeh, 57, from Salem. Photo shows Taher Shtiyeh’s farm, Salem

Copyright: Faiz Abu Rmeleh, Activestills.org; B'Tselem

Art in Palestine

A Narrative, Mobilisation Tool, and a Necessary Means of Survival


Introduction

Figure 1: Reflections

Ever since the emergence of the Palestinian cause, art has been the visual expression of the Palestinian struggle for liberation. Most visual production of Palestinian artists has been strongly tied with the political conditions that Zionist settler-colonialism brought in, shaping every facet of the Palestinians’ daily life. Palestinian artists are not exempt from these conditions. Palestinian art has mostly – but not only – reflected the Palestinian people’s suffering and state of loss and exile that the traumatic events of the 1948 Nakba caused. 

The well-known Palestinian artist and art historian Kamal Boullata raised some questions regarding Palestinian art that I will try to offer a humble answer for through my drawings.

“How does one create art under the threat of sudden death and the unpredictability of invasion and siege? More specifically, how do Palestinian artists articulate their awareness of space when their homeland’s physical space is being diminished daily by barriers and electronic walls and when their own homes could at any moment be occupied by soldiers or even blown out of existence? In what way can an artist engage with the homeland’s landscape when ancient orange and olive groves are being systematically destroyed? When the grief of bereaved families is reduced by the mass media to an abstraction transmitted at lightning speed to a TV screen, what language can a visual artist use to express such grief? (Boullata, 2004)”

This piece will be a personal reflection on my life journey through the lens of my art that was mainly inspired from experiences instilled in my memory from my life in the Gaza Strip, Palestine. 

Palestinian Art as a Narrative Instrument of Resistance

Figure 2: For the Sake of the Sun

Palestinian art, from the twentieth century up until now, has always been a visual reflection of the Palestinian struggle that aimed to depict the reality of the Palestinian people, their hopes and aspirations, their suffering, coupled with resistance. It is also a visual self-representation tool that aims to provide  a counter narrative to the hegemonic Zionist misleading narrative of the Palestinian reality, to raise political awareness on the Palestinian issue and urge for mobilisation at an international level. 

Speaking of narrative brings to mind the words of Edward Said, the late Palestinian exiled academic and writer, which reminds that, “no clear and simple narrative is adequate to the complexity of our experience” (After the Last Sky 1986: 6).

“To be sure, no single Palestinian can be said to feel what most other Palestinians feel: ours has been too various and scattered a fate for that sort of correspondence,” Said eloquently stated. “But there is no doubt that we do in fact form a community, if at heart a community built on suffering and exile” (After the Last Sky 1986: 5-6).

Certainly, Palestinian art has served as a narrative instrument that is used to challenge the hegemonic Zionist narrative which has been tirelessly trying to erase them. Zionism’s existence was fundamentally based on the negation of the very existence of the Palestinian people, a fact that is implicit in Israel’s fourth Prime Minister, Golda Meir’s infamous quotation that, “There was no such thing as Palestinians, they never existed” (Matar, 2011, p. 84).

"I'm Palestine"

Among many other forms of expression, art for many Palestinians was seen as a way to visually participate in writing their own narrative, to express their identity, to empower the Palestinians’ voices, and to move beyond the victim circle to become actors who actively, critically and creatively engage with their surrounding matters.   

Over the course of the Palestinian struggle, the Palestinian people increasingly regarded every piece of art that came to reflect their living conditions in the Israeli grip as a means of resistance. Many Palestinian paintings displaying the ‘forbidden’ colors of the Palestinian flag have been confiscated, and many artists faced interrogation or even a prison sentence due their art that was perceived as ‘an act of incitement’. Let us not forget the late Palestinian influential exiled artists Ghassan Kanafani and Naji Al-Ali, whose art and literary production led to their murder.

Reflections on My Artwork

Figure 3: Children of Refugee Camps -- A Violated Childhood

The majority of Palestinians have become politicised due to their complex and intense political reality that shapes every aspect of their lives. I am no exception. Art for me was an expressive tool in which I found empowerment to my voice. It served as my humble tactic to overcome the state of siege and occupation imposed on us, to escape the feeling of helplessness that can be easily felt in such suppressive and oppressive life conditions that the Palestinian people endure which I was born within. It was also a tool that I used to engage politically and socially with the harsh surrounding. While living in Gaza, my art was an attempt to connect not only on an internal level as a part of the Palestinian community, but also internationally through online social networks that I used as a bridge that connects the international community with the Palestinian people’s struggle for liberation, which should be addressed as a central global issue.  

Since my birth in Jabalia Refugee Camp in the north of the Gaza Strip, the biggest and most densely populated refugee camp in Palestine, I have never known what life is like without occupation and siege, injustice and horror. Like the child depicted in Figure 3, growing up in Jabalia refugee camp was the window to understanding the Palestinian reality under occupation. Art has been the way I naturally sought since a very early age to describe what I felt was indescribable. 

In the context of Palestine under which people endure unbearable living conditions, creativity is a necessary tool for survival and a way towards less depression and better physical and mental health.

Personally, observing the Palestinian children being born in a difficult reality that subjugates them to terror and trauma at very young age was the most painful. Thus, most of my drawings are of Palestinian children whose innocent facial expressions I find most telling. Check Figure 3, 4 , 5, 6 and 7 in the slideshow below:

 

An Ongoing Nakba

My generation, the third-generation refugees, was already blueprinted with the traumatic events of the Nakba, which for Palestinians, is not only a tragic historical event that resides in the past, only to be commemorated once a year with events that include art exhibits and national festivals among other things. “It was never one Nakba,” my grandmother used to say asserting that it was never a one-off event that happened in 1948. The Nakba is experienced instead as the uninterrupted process of Israeli settler-colonialism and domination that was given continuity by the 1967 occupation, and which every aspect of daily Palestinian life is affected by. Growing up hearing our grandmothers recount the life they had before, the dispossessed lands that most would never see again, has formed the collective memory of the Palestinian people. My grandmother described a peaceful life in green fields of citrus and olive trees, the tastes, the sounds, the smells that remained only in her memories in our village Beit-Jirja which was violently emptied of its inhabitants and razed to the ground in 1948 like hundreds of other villages.

As Boullata described, ‘Today, memory continues to be the connective tissue through which Palestinian identity is asserted and it is the fuel that replenishes the history of their cultural resistance’ (Boullata, 2009, p. 103). Palestinian art has been always perceived as a cultural form of political resistance which often addressed issues related to collective memory, memories of the Nakba, and the lived reality of injustices and oppression endured by Palestinians under the on-going occupation with an emphasis on the people’s resistance in the face of Israel’s brutality as coupled with hope, which in itself is resistance. Art has served as a basic mobilization tool that was gradually perceived, not only by the Palestinian public, but also by the Israeli forces “as emblematic of a collective national identity and crucibles of defiant resistance to occupation” (Boullata, 2004).

Several drawings of mine, such as those featured below, were an attempt to emphasize this hope through the continuity of the struggle from one generation to another. They were my response to several Zionist leaders who assumed that time will make the Palestinian refugees forget about their right to return.  The drawings come to assert that they were absolutely wrong. The old will die and the young will keep on holding the key, embracing their legitimate right to return. The key is a symbol of the undying Palestinian hope that return is inevitable. The young generation is perceived as those who will carry the burden of the cause and continue the struggle that the previous generation started until freedom, justice, equality and return to the Palestinian people. Thus, Palestinian children became the symbol through which “We nurse hope” as Mahmoud Darwish said (Darwish, 2002).

From an early age, drawing was not only a tool of expression, but also a way to convey a political message, to call for mobilisation in support of the Palestinian struggle. The power of art lays in the fact that is a universal language to communicate the unspeakable that many people in safety zones cannot fully understand. With the availability of online platforms, it became possible to reach beyond borders and checkpoints to a wider audience.

I was only nine years old when my parents noticed my drawing skills that were limited to black warplanes, pillars of smoke in the sky and crying eyes. This coincided with the eruption of the second intifada in September 2000 when I used to accompany my mother and aunt to the martyrs’ funeral tents to offer our condolences. I used to hate the green colour, as it was associated in my memory with martyrs’ funeral tents, which were disturbingly visible in Jabalia refugee camp’s landscape. The first poem I ever learned to memorize by heart was one by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish entitled, “And He Returned …In A Coffin”. As a nine-year old girl, I stood in front of everyone sitting along the benches in the marquee, looked into the people’s tearful eyes, and in a powerful but shaking voice, I recited,

They speak in our homeland

they say in sorrow

about my comrade who passed

and returned in a coffin

Do you remember his name?

Don’t mention his name!

Let him rest in our hearts.

Let’s not let the word get lost

in the air like ash.

It was moments like these, during the tumult of the second intifada that fundamentally shaped my consciousness about the land and my place in it. Since childhood, the scenes of war, the faces of martyrs, the injured and detained people, the cries and weeping of the martyrs’ relatives over the loss of their beloved, have been chasing me day and night. These scenes pushed me to seek art as a way to express my emotions, to reconcile with my wounds, to reflect on my memories and experiences that many Palestinians share.

 

Humanising Prisoners' Issues Through Art

Chains Shall Break

Moreover, being a daughter of an ex-detainee means I have grown a unique attachment to the plight of the Palestinian political prisoners, not only from a political perspective but also from a personal one. My father spent a total of fifteen years in Israeli jails, a part of his original seven life sentences. The stories of resilience, suffering and oppression that I grew up hearing from him about his stolen youth in Israeli jails have made me develop a particular passion to advocate for justice for Palestinian political prisoners who endure inhumane living conditions under the Israel Prison Service which denies them their most basic rights.

However, in spite of its importance, the issue of Palestinian political prisoners and their families who suffer immensely from the pain of longing and separation and are often denied their right to family visits is not given the deserved attention in the political arena. They are not only marginalised, but also dehumanised as whenever they are mentioned in the media discourse, they are mentioned as merely statistics or numbers. Through the drawings below, I attempted to humanise the prisoners’ plight and draw attention to their daily resistance in the face of the oppressive Israeli jailers that treat them as if they are not humans. I tried to depict their determination to break their chains, their resisting spirit in Israeli jails. I also tried to express their families’ pain as they are imprisoned in time, waiting for a day when their re-union without barriers in between will be possible again.

The Pain of Waiting : Imprisoned in Time

This drawing above was an attempt to show how waiting for a reunion between the prisoners and their families is in itself a torment. My mother experienced seeing my father being violently captured in front of her eyes from the middle of their house three times when the first intifada erupted in December 1987. She was a newly married bride expecting her first child, my eldest brother Majed, when he was re-arrested and forced to serve an administrative detention order, an arbitrary procedure that Israel uses against the Palestinian people to imprison people without charge or trial, usually based on secret information that neither the detainee nor his lawyer have access to. The experience was repeated when my elder sister Majd was born, and lastly soon after my birth. My mother has always described the torturous experience of waiting for my father’s release, how she spent days and nights staring at the clock, waiting impatiently to hear some news from him while her right to family visits was denied.

The imprisonment experience repeats itself hundreds of thousands of times across Palestine, regardless of gender or age. I have many family members, friends and neighbours who experienced unbearable conditions that range from physical torture to psychological torture to even sexual torture.  Palestinian political prisoners have always resisted the brutality of the Israel Prison Service. They have no weapon but hunger to protest their inhumane living conditions and call for their right to proper medical care, the right to family visits and other basic rights under international law while imprisoned. “Hunger strike until either martyrdom or freedom” is a motto that many prisoners adopted. The drawing below aimed to illustrate the spirit of this motto.

Hunger Until Either Martyrdom or Freedom

Memories of War

The turning point of my life was at the age of seventeen, after witnessing the 22-day massacre that the Israeli occupation forces committed against our people in Gaza in 2008-09. During that dismal period when we remained in darkness amidst the continuous bombing, destruction and mass killing of Palestinians in Gaza, I had a terrible sense of being isolated from the rest of the world. The trauma of seeing such levels of brutality was intense. No one was certain if they would live for another day or not.

One of the most memorable moments is that when one night, I was sitting in darkness, surrounded by my mother and siblings in one small room of our house under one blanket. No voice could be heard, just heartbeats and heavy, shaky breaths. The beating and breathing grew louder after every new explosion we felt crashing around, shaking our home and lighting up the sky. Then suddenly, the door of our house opened violently and somebody shouted, “Leave home now!” It was my dad rushing in to evacuate our house because of a bomb threat to a neighbour. I remember that my siblings and I grasped Mum and started running outside unconsciously, barefoot. For three days we stayed in a nearby house, powerless as we sat, waiting to be either killed, or wounded, or forced to watch our home destroyed.

This merciless and inhumane attack killed at least 1417 men, women and children. I wasn’t among them but what if I had been? Would I be buried like any one of them in a grave, nothing left of me but a blurry picture stuck on the wall and the memory of another teenage girl slain too young? Would I have been for the world just a number, a dead person? I refused to dwell on that thought. Many drawings of mine, such as those below, were inspired from memories attached to this traumatic event whose memories always floated back whenever an attack was repeated. Most importantly, resorting to art was a necessary means that helped me preserve my sanity and overcome harsh traumatic events that I experienced throughout my life in the suffocating blockade of the Gaza Strip.

 

Conclusion

While living under conditions of ghettoisation, occupation and military assault, a continuation of the Zionist domination of the Palestinian land that was dispossessed in 1948 for the ‘Jewish state’ to be founded, Palestinian artists continue to be driven to express themselves in paint, photography, and other visual media, with having the Palestinian struggle for liberation as the central theme for their artwork. Art has offered Palestinians a platform to engage with the politically complex reality and express the suppressed voice of the Palestinian people in visual forms that can communicate universally. It was also a way to humanise the people’s suffering that is usually dehumanised in mainstream media and reduced to a dry coverage of abstractions that present them as numbers and statistics. Palestinian art, therefore, has been perceived as a form of political resistance, a mobilisation tool, a way to assert the Palestinians’ embrace of our legitimate political and human rights, such as the right to return, the right to self-determination, and the right to live in dignity and freedom.

 

by Shahd Abusalama

Originally published in her blog: Palestine From My Eyes

Shahd Abusalama is a freedom fighter from Gaza, Palestine.

Jerusalem

Photo Credit: Mohammed El-Kurd

(1)

I breathe in

this city

and I pretend

that it doesn’t hurt me.

Jerusalem is home,

even though this city brings me down every single day.

Jerusalem is home,

even though it saddens me every single day.

Jerusalem is home,

even though that this town makes me wish die quite frequently.

Jerusalem

tears me down,

scars and bruises,

tears and sad smiles,

Jerusalem

raises me up only so it could knock me down again.

Jerusalem

is each lie treated like truth,

and each truth treated like a lie.

Jerusalem

is a divine crime

scene,

a crime committed with the hands of the holy.

Jerusalem

is a beheading of the hydra,

a lynching of those who speak just.

 

(2)

Jerusalem

is nothing but their tongues on its soils.

If only Jerusalem spoke,

I would be thankful.

If only Jerusalem said something,

I would live to hear it again and again.

if only Jerusalem talked,

the invisible bruises would finally fade.

If only Jerusalem spoke,

if only the soil spoke,

if only the wrinkles on my grandmother’s forehead spoke,

if only the walls of this city spoke,

if only the lies they made spoke,

they’d say the truth.

 

(3)

Jerusalem

is a woman giving birth to a new life that we might never ever see.

Jerusalem

is the rebirth to this very life we live.

Jerusalem

is what we make it…

so let it be reborn into the truth and beyond.

 

(4)

Jerusalem

once again is home.

A home where the windows are shattered open,

but still there wouldn’t be any air for us to breathe.

Jerusalem

once again is home.

A home where you always carry the key with you

but there isn’t a door anyway.

Jerusalem,

once again is home.

A home where the walls have ears

and the ears have tongues

and the tongues tell lies

and the lies live on.

 

(5)

Jerusalem

Once again is home.

A home where the life had died giving birth to a new one,

Jerusalem

is a fortune teller

telling us we are going to have a happy life,

little does she know that destiny chose to make us live like refugee pillows,

and the anticipation knows no sleep.

Jerusalem

is hopes aborted,

fears fulfilled.

Jerusalem is sirens as a lullaby.

Jerusalem is tear gas as heavy perfume.

Jerusalem is truths unspoken,

or always spoken but never heard.

Jerusalem

is a woman holding her stone and throwing it

in the sky that they filled with F16s.

 

(6)

Jerusalem

is little girl

screaming “fuck this war, I’m going to school”.

 

(7)

Jerusalem

is a man,

hardworking and the sweat waters the hope

and the hope feeds the heart faith

and the faith makes us numb,

but never too numb.

 

(8)

Jerusalem

is a boy

seeing it the way it is,

the way it was and the way it should be.

 

(9)

Jerusalem is I

and I am Jerusalem,

almost collapsing,

almost too strong.

 

(10)

Jerusalem,

once again is home.

A home where the walls have ears

and the ears have tongues

and the tongues tell lies

and the lies live,

but life….. ends.

 

by Mohammed El-Kurd

October 15, 2014 (Age 16)

 

 

Should I Apologize?

For me

it has always been sirens,

and I've learned to scream

because my lover

was thunder.

 

Ever since I learned what it was to sacrifice

I am a fragile cult of roses

but blessed by the shoulders of a vine to lean on,

yet the wind

always finds a way to breathe through me

to shake me,

to break me

then make me

of whispers again . . .

until I learn to scream . . . again

but on the nights,

where my silent cries

are heard

where life

gets so absurd

and I become envious of a preyed bird

for only it flies, and I don't

I am often asked to apologize.

 

Should I apologize

for looking the sun straight in the eye

and still not crying?

 

Should I apologize

because I give you darkness

so you could see me gleam and shine?

 

Must I apologize

because I am made of stars,

but yet it's always daylight?

 

Should I apologize

because my heart refuses to stop beating,

and I cannot execute a thought of my reckless mind?

 

Shall I apologize

for your blind -or blinded-

mind and eye?

 

I don't know.

 

But still,

as I display my thorn-wrapped soul and wounds

to the healing sky,

I can see your tired eye

staring from a hole

in your gloomy cloud of a homeland

staring at the tall, tall legs

of my wandering mind,

with jealousy, contempt and a sigh

that assures me:

you haven't won . . .

either.

 

by Mohammed El-Kurd

A Stone's Neglected Reasons

Children on ruins in al-‘Ajaj in the Jordan Valley, 11 August 2015. Photo by ‘Aref Daraghmeh, B’Tselem. 

When your body is cuffed with chains,

when your timeless soul is caged,

so the dust of despair breathes through you

and the void sieges you,

and you're fighting the world alone;

throw that stone

(and a million more)

 

It's nirvana you throw in the air,

clouds of hope fly beyond borders

and it rains drops of tomorrow everywhere

to nirvana, dear, you're getting closer.

 

When they say they only want peace

but you still remember that blood-red night of may

when they'd executed peace long before its decay,

when their peace is just so wrong

and its raining bullets and drones

throw that stone

(and a million more)

 

When your friends' bodies ache

but your friends are in oblivion;

every laugh you whisper is a spear inside

you bleed for their wounded absent minds.

 

When you know it's an uneven war,

but you still sharpen the blade to gore

the mechanic heart of a world, long gone.

to them you are powerless, yet you still frighten

their guilty eyes,

yet you still frighten the unpaid price.

When your religion is the truth,

even if it takes your youth

like the martyrs that would never forgive

like the chances you would never relive

 

When they bulldoze your empire of dreams

throw stones to rebuild your homeland

'though the world won't understand

throw stones to throw away,

the assumption that our will is dead

tell them it would never die,

stones will forever stay alive.

 

by Mohammed El-Kurd

The Star's Blood

      Silence -- (Aragón, 2015)

-------------------------- to Muhammad Al-Qiq

 

Broken

the stars have broken

and silenced the sunsets,

the mornings;

they drowned

in the blood

that whisper

the soldiers

when they force us

to eat their excrements:

to be a human behind bars

is to refuse;

Hunger is and has been

always

a much nobler

companion

behind rotten bars,

pulling at the gates

that were thrust upon her

for being free,

for speaking out.

Her seeds we’ll all plant

in our desecrated

gardens

used to feed the bullets

and the fires;

 

to be a human

behind bars

is to rearrange

the broken pieces

into a crystal knife

we use to mutilate

the lying part

sowed in our tongues;

 

to be a human

behind bars

is to not drink

the star’s blood

even if only to nourish

our veins

and tears with which

we feed

our orphaned children

no wheat

or water;

 

is to not drink

their lawyer’s tea

taken from the old man

down the road

left to die of thirst

and refused for drying

by the sun;

 

they’ll wear

your mouth

to plant lies

in our land

and, even when you’re gone,

when the mould and metal bed

finally cover your eyes,

the bees and butterflies

will refuse

to pollinate

the corrupt trees,

yet our own plants

will grow,

not high not tall

but honestly,

like our children’s

hearts;

 

this bitter land

this century

that is ours

we will keep in a box

they won’t take from us:

that, at least, you taught us;

 

the little box

where all the pieces

of the silenced sunsets

were saved;

we’ll reconstruct them

with your memory;

the bees will pollinate our trees

and high

and tall

they won’t take them away

with your voice;

 

and freedom’s eyes

will be our eyes

to see

through violence

through fear,

 

and she will be our mother,

our tongue

and land;

 

yet rest assured:

their excrements will dry

and forget will drag their bodies,

their imprisoned rotten memories,

and one day a bird

with the perfume of the horses’ backs

will fight for their forgiveness,

and the severe council of the bees

will let their women’s flowers bloom again

speaking a tongue of love

that will breathe the life

of stars and skies.

 

Right here. Right now.

 

by Angel Aragón

 

The Butterfly's Tears

A crying city. (Hebron, 2007)

------------------------------------To Ashraf Fayadh.

Today,
children’s skulls
are being made of little doves
chopped into pieces
for a few dollars
by a gasoline-stinking
 — — — — — — — — society;

to be a poet is to rearrange
the chunks of flesh
in order for the dove to fly again
to be a poet is to sing
alongside the mute bird
(that they extirpated her chords,
her eyes, her tongue)
to be a poet is to not shut up,
to take the rubbish out of cans
to rearrange it
and make it soar in flight
and make it sing,
and make it cry
a sparrow for the morning
that the nightingale is tired
of not sleeping
and his tongue is not enough
his breast raw with never-closing
wounds
disinfected with petrol,
with justice,
and with coins
(just a few).

Today,
to be a poet is to inspire
constantly
the butterfly’s tears,
and with every inspiration,
maybe the last,
to search the essence,
the fear,
to say the domination
of Empire.
If we were to extract
the cranial bones
from our entire population
we would only find
the rotten pieces
of the dying doves
(aren’t they already dead?)
and so it smells like fuck
like rancid gods
whose (all the) grease
coagulates
covering the heart of the world
(thrombosis) necrosis of artistic tissue.

But we are all here,
right beside you,
rearranging garbage into music,
desperately trying to find
the rotten pieces of the doves
that still can make fresh birds
to sing, to fly,
inspiring the tears
shed by the trees,
the butterflies.
Stupid people ask where are the poets;
it is evident that in the grey-ass dumps
lest they should be found
to be lynched,
to be lashed, to be hung — -
from the singing of the buried coffins
they construct cathedrals
from the crying,
from the endless sobbing.

When they mutilate our faces
they will wear them every day,
and our skin will be their boots,
 — — — — — — — — — -their carpets.

One day will arrive with another poet
that will try to rearrange
our rotting remains
to see if they still sing,
or, 
like the doves,
have been corrupted to the heart,
demolished to the bones.
The poet will find us there,
dead,
but uncorrupted, singing till the end,
till our heads roll off the executioner’s sword,
till our tongue is eaten by the crows
and our eyes are blinded by the worms,
singing,
side by side,
the poet will find us there,
find us all,
like the sparrows,
inspiring the butterfly’s tears,
the trees’ autumns,
microscopically rearranging
pieces of flesh,
of bone, of shit,
to make them sing,
and soar in flight,
even if only
for the remains of broken hearts.

Right here, right now.
A support statement for Ashraf Fayadh by Angel Aragón, director of Fallujah. and Mute Lyre Films.