Dalia of al-Bireh, Palestine
Bina of Rishon LeZion, Israel
Every step knows. But I’m taking them anyway.
Marching towards the cold concrete
of our occupation
– there’s hundreds of us,
once again –
we carry no weapons,
but our breathing. The threat that’s arm-in-arm.
I grew up around (and what formed them).
you join (and who tells us so).
I’m selling coffee with on Ben Tsiyon now.
Least of all my mum.
But then, a single shot contains
that won’t be conquered,
and the silence that follows
leaves me with nothing
but my words. What’s harmed is always more
than one person.
No one will ever be allowed to hear
what I feel
beyond I love my country,
and I want us to be safe. No one,
but this poem.
That’s where my pain really lives.
It’s there – in my life’s drought
stretching towards the withering twigs
of what’s only still reached
in a dream
I no longer know
how to dream.
But they’re running through me,
still. Like roads,
Before I had a chance?
And it’s there – in stroking little Saif’s hair,
pretending not to know
that his mother won’t be replaced.
Not like this.
The way he walks out of my touch isn’t evasion.
It’s what he grew up with instead.
As if to say that I’m a solider now
won’t be covered
with the normalcy
of a life. All of me I stretched
to make my uniform
fit. And these fingers,
which were too small for the trigger
even at the end of my service.
Looking at him like this, I often wonder
still. In his eyes. Like a miracle.
And I remember myself as a child… When all we had
And holding on to a habit – it’s the same train
every day, now;
Rishon to Tel Aviv, half an hour for me
and my notebook
– doesn’t take: You’re not even in missile range,
Bina. How can you know?
It doesn’t take: At night,
I listen to the terror with my skin.
Today, I know that if a hand is too small
exactly what their rifles
stretch inside a person. Back
to where nothing is possible.
I think, in a country that never
to question itself,
it’s as if the wind never
to blow. Our belief,
against another. Their situation,
And if our lives are lived on nothing
but steadfastness, now
– what is steadfastness
in a moment like this? When it feels like
again, from what keeps everything in place.
And there are mornings
when I know it’s
more than a fancy to leave this train
at the wrong station,
and board a random bus instead.
Into what feels like forbidden territory.
And choose the opposite direction
everyone wants me to move in.
Where I’m allowed to think. If what’s being inflicted on a woman
defines who she is
she will need what’s being inflicted on her
the way a body needs water.
The moment the bus pulls out of the station,
I’m a little less afraid: every flag,
is a cry
Walking, like this, the ground beneath my feet
seems to hold a trace,
suddenly… Of that moment
when you where in the greatest of needs.
And our arms opened in a spirit
that looks like a hallucination now.
This is no longer a landscape
– stretches of absence
by odd settlements; arid slopes
of limestone rising towards
the bright innocence that touches
– nor even a land. Where
is this taking me?
Like passing a surprise checkpoint
after a deadly attack,
when whatever there is, in relief,
takes a long time to arrive,
because the pain lingers
The moment our capital wraps
in its stones
around my imagination,
the comfort I feel is real.
And the result is like a newborn baby:
almost too vulnerable to be held. That’s how I feel
this admission: no, I no longer believe
in our shaking off.
My mum’s fervent Intertwined with,
Walking the narrow alleyways
of the Old City,
back when I still knew
how to do this holding on.
To: A presence.
As if it didn’t want me to walk
than this, it’s coming up
against my face now.
this was too far already. Like a wind?
Now I know that every dead body
cuts a twine. Wherever it falls. Every minute
Blowing al-Am’ari’s cries
down the streets of Netanya.
And a little more
of what we aim
every time we do.
Clouds of shopping street smoke
across Hebron’s daily festering.
Until there’s nothing left
but a shell
at the core of which
a once great dream
against all that.
And it bleeds, and it bleeds, and it bleeds.
But it’s this blood, my blood,
the blood that’s running through me, still,
that keeps pushing me on.
The moment I realise I’m walking
I realise how far I’ve come.
there’s the Wall.
Everyone in the camp could see my tears,
dripping into the helplessness,
and the anger, because
long before they told us… That Shai
wouldn’t come back. That the only boy I ever loved
And my memories march their despair
through my body
like an occupying army.
Like everything that’s in ruins
high up in the sky – dropping
like a missile no one knows
how to intercept: a wound that doesn’t heal
doesn’t ask Who.
That’s when my legs give in
to a weight that’s there,
always. And contains
more, much more
than our accepted suffering.
there’s the Wall.
And as I stare at the concrete, I think: perhaps
it’s what you’ve lost completely
you understand best,
sometimes. Perhaps that’s why I feel this way. About your fear.
And all it’s doing
brings me to my knees. But my hand refuses
to remain closed
in everything everyone
has ever told me, and no one can deny the readiness
in my reaching out. As if to reach
And perhaps it’s to that
is opening now.
For touch exceeding its touching
in a being touched.
Until this is so tight
a pulse that says: sometimes, Dalia,
and being raised
When I’m standing again,
has left my body.
And as if my seeing had lost
of its seeing, what’s coming in, now,
carries a current
that’s known to different eyes,
And I know: all that’s filling me instead
won’t be claimed,
or prolonged by any other means
than what’s creating it.
And with that,
it ceases. For the first time in my life.
And if there really is a presence
it’s here. And only here. In those windless moments.
When it’s too bright
to be denied:
All we could be.