Poems for Palestine

Decolonize Palestine: End the Violence, End the War, End the Occupation. Solidarity from Turtle Island. #GazaUnderAttack

Decolonize Palestine: End the Violence, End the War, End the Occupation.

By Anne Champion

The Tent of Nations is an educational and ecological farm run by Christian Palestinian brothers in the mountains of Palestine.  They run a peace project that invites people from around the world to interact.  Despite the land being awarded to the family by the Supreme Court, they are not allowed to build and must live in caves.  The caves are painted in bright colors by Palestinian children who paint over their own shadows. Their guest tents have demolition orders on them, as they are considered a form of building, and their trees are routinely destroyed by the Israeli Defense Forces. 10,000 trees were destroyed and buried a few days before I arrived.

THE TENT OF NATIONS

If they won’t let us build,
we’ll live in caves
and if our children are merely
shadows, our children
will paint over their shadows
in vibrant primary colors
on the stoic rocks underground.
If our children die, they’ll frolic
on these rocks, embossed
on the earth, bound only to freedom.
If they say the land isn’t ours,
we’ll keep going to court.  If they cut
down 10,000 olive trees in a day
and bury them in a mass grave
like bodies, then we’ll mourn
like bodies. If trees take patience
and nurture, then peace takes
patience and nurture, and if we keep
holding out our hands?
If you block the road to us
with your tanks, the internationals
will climb the mountain to plant
and break bread, to trace
the children’s silhouettes, to gaze
over all of Palestine, to remember.

———

Military raids happen approximately once a week in Bi’lin.  This village has been targeted because its use of creative, nonviolent resistance has endured and captured the attention of people from all over the world.  American presidents, celebrities, and other world leaders have visited, and a documentary about the village, *Five Broken Cameras, *garnered critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination.  Raids are a common tactic of occupation, as it produces anxiety and inhibits sleep, thus giving Palestinians difficulty in everything from routine chores and schoolwork to demonstration planning and participation.

RAIDS
Bil’in, West Bank

Once a week, the soldiers rouse us,
alarm clock of rifle butts on midnight doors.
We pull the children from their beds.
They point their guns at our heads,
but there’s nothing like the bullet
of panic as they aim
at the children’s hearts.
Iyad’s daughter’s first raid
was at one week old. Now she’s six
and she’s learned to raise her arms,
half dreaming still, marching
like an automaton towards the moon.
She always looks at the sky,
never meets a soldier in the eye
as they tear apart her room,
her beads scattering on the floor
like the bullets shot into the night
air.  Someone falls down, someone’s
been hit.  A rubber bullet lodged in a throat
on the side of the road. I watch
the smoke hover above his head
before he slumps over; in seconds,
his neck blooms and pushes aside his face.
The men prop him up, the women call
to the soldiers for an ambulance.
The teenage soldiers high five each other
before calling for help.  And then
the tear gas canisters hiss
and the air strangles with its serpent snare.
Someone wraps a keffiyah
over my face and pulls me inside,
and I can’t see a thing. Even when my vision
returns, I can’t see anything anymore.

———

In the summer of 2014, Palestinian prisoners participated in a two month long hunger strike in protest of Israel’s use of administrative detention, a process through which it holds prisoners indefinitely without charge or trial. Children are routinely arrested: the law states they cannot be arrested under the age of 12, but the majority of Palestinian boys have been arrested and detained by that age, so it’s not routinely enforced.  The arrests, interrogations, and torture methods are all in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  The strike ended after a force feeding bill was passed and dozens of prisoners agreed to end the strike, despite not having their demands met. The phrase in the poem “The night is dark and does not end” came from a hunger strike poster in Ramallah.

PRISON HUNGER STRIKE

I eat only salt and water.
Here, staying alive
is synonymous with resistance.

***
When I was born,
my body was a wound,
festering.

***
I have looked
into the eyes
of every man
who beat me.
I have never seen
their eyes.

***
I was first arrested when I was eight.
My father told me to be brave.
My mother told me I was born
a hero.  I was neither.

***
I am still neither.

***
In a windowless cell,
head wrapped
in a burlap bag,
the night is dark
and does not end.

***
Something ravishes me
from the inside out
so that my body withers
so that my body rages
so that my mind stops
pouring torrents
of storm.

***
The soldier says
When they pass the force
feeding bill, I will
put the tubes through
your lungs and fill
them up. You will wish
you were dead.

***
I don’t know what season
it is, but I know that somewhere
the Jasmine buds bloom
and the breeze pantomimes
freedom through flowering branches.

***
When I was a child,
the soldier said
Your parents are dead.

***
When I was a child,
the soldier said
Your parents are not dead,
but they will be unless
you can give us information.

***
I have not seen my son
in two years.
He is almost old enough
to be arrested.

***
In the hospital, I have one shackle
on my foot and one on my wrist,
but my mind is always elsewhere.

***
When I was a child,
the soldier said
Do you know what rape is?

***
The soldier says
You think you are Ghandi?
The world doesn’t care if you starve.

***
When I’m empty,
hollowed out
like an old tree
whose roots cling
deep into the earth,
I feel closer to God.

———

Tariq Abu Khadeir is a Palestinian American who was 15 years old when video footage of him being beaten by Israeli soldiers was widely broadcast on newscasts around the world, prompting outrage and concern. This beating came just days after his cousin, 16 year old Mohammed Abu Khadeir, was kidnapped and burned to death by Israeli extremists in revenge for the kidnapping and killings of three Israeli teens. (This is referred to as the Price Tag Policy: for every death of a Jewish person, civilians will kill a Palestinian civilian at random in revenge).  The kidnapping and death of the Israeli teens set off a chain of events that led to the Gaza war in 2014.

ONLY YOUR BLOOD
To Tariq Abu Khdeir

As you sat in front of reporters, bruises blooming across your face,
finally home–was the Florida warmth as comforting as you’d remembered,
was America still the land you’d been promised, safe and strong,
or did the razor edges of history disorient like the camera flashes,
like the boots before you lost consciousness?

As The Call to Prayer draped itself over the mountains
of Palestine, as you remembered your cousin, of the boys abducting
him in the middle of the night, did you feel his darkening wave of death
as dusk packed the day away and marched toward another night
without him?  When the sun pummeled through shadows
every morning, did you see fire?  Did you look down at the blades
of grass and remember his charred body, his silhouette embossed
in the earth, the way everyone’s eyes fossilized and didn’t look away?

When the soldiers abducted you after his murder, was the wind
forming fists as they battered your 15 year old body? With every kick,
every crack of the rib, or the moment that your jaw slid out of place,
did you wonder if you’d become your cousin? As your head
was in the burlap sack, did you hear your own breathing,
did they hear their own breathing that allowed them to take
your body like it was theirs to take?

Wrath will be wrath but privilege only comes for one kind of boy,
and you are the other one whose walk litters the landscape,
but you hope you can come back someday, “safe,”
you, who they look at and tell that your skin is a weapon,
your skin is a trap, your skin is a prison
that only your blood can escape from.

———

Anne Champion is the author of Reluctant Mistress (Gold Wake Press, 2013) and The Dark Length Home (Noctuary Press, forthcoming). Her work appears in Ploughshares, Verse Daily, Prairie Schooner, The Pinch, New South, Redivider, PANK Magazine, and elsewhere.  She was a 2009 Academy of American Poets Prize recipient, a 2016 Best of the Net winner, and a Barbara Deming Memorial Grant recipient.  anne-champion.com

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