A Poem for Gaza

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I never knew death until I saw the bombing of a refugee camp

Craters filled with disfigured ankles and splattered torsos

But no sign of a face, the only impression a fading scream

I never understood pain

Until a seven-year-old girl clutched my hand

Stared up at me with soft brown eyes, waiting for answers

But I didn’t have any

I had muted breath and dry pens in my back pocket

That couldn’t fill pages of understanding or resolution

In her other hand she held the key to her grandmother’s house

But I couldn’t unlock the cell that caged her older brothers

They said, we slingshot dreams so the other side will feel
our father’s presence

A craftsman

Built homes in areas where no one was building

And when he fell, he was silent

A .50 caliber bullet tore through his neck shredding his vocal cords

Too close to the wall

His hammer must have been a weapon

He must have been a weapon

Encroaching on settlement hills and demographics

So his daughter studies mathematics

Seven explosions times eight bodies

Equals four Congressional resolutions

Seven Apache helicopters times eight Palestinian villages

Equals silence and a second Nakba

Our birthrate minus their birthrate

Equals one sea and 400 villages re-erected

One state plus two peoples . . . and she can’t stop crying

Never knew revolution or the proper equation

Tears at the paper with her fingertips

Searching for answers

But only has teachers

Looks up to the sky and see stars of David
demolishing squalor with hellfire missiles

She thinks back words and memories of his last hug
before he turned and fell

Now she pumps dirty water from wells,
while settlements divide and conquer

And her father’s killer sits beachfront with European vernacular

She thinks back words, while they think backwards

Of obscene notions and indigenous confusion

This our land!, she said

She’s seven years old

This our land!, she said

And she doesn’t need a history book or a schoolroom teacher

She has these walls, this sky, her refugee camp

She doesn’t know the proper equation

But she sees my dry pens

No longer waiting for my answers

Just holding her grandmother’s key . . . searching for ink

Remi Kanazi is a Palestinian American poet and activist.  He is editor of Poets for Palestine.  Visit his Web site Poetic Injustice at <www.poeticinjustice.net/>.