This is the video of a poem I performed last November for Words And Strings event here in Doha, Qatar.
This is the second time I perform at a poetry event. I am overcoming the anxiety of performing in front of audience. I hope next performance will be better.
I’ve never intended to let my voice
crackle with sultry tears
while reading this poem
but a mother kissing
the forehead of her dead child
took over my chimes
I’ve never intended to sound
like laboring lava
while reading this poem
but a soldier’s strip-search and spits
a cop’s stop and frisk
made me erupt
I’ve never intended to close
my eyes and lose breath
while reading this poem
but my boat is sinking
washing me ashore, face down in sand
I’ve never intended to write this poem
This article was originally published as part of “Life in Occupied Palestine” a special issue of Biography: A Interdisciplinary Quarterly.
I often wrote about how politics and personal life always collide . It’s been four years since I left Gaza and I’ve not been able to visit it. There’s no doubt that the suffering of those who live in Gaza is much worse than Palestinians who live outside of it. But in the article, I wrote about how it affects me and my family since it’s been almost impossible to see family anywhere (not in Gaza or Qatar).
A very long, a very hot summer is approaching Qatar, where I currently live. Some forced hibernation is awaiting me, since the heat is unforgiving. Yet summer is the time people look forward to the most, because, unlike me, they are going home to be with their families and friends.
When my friends ask me “Why are you staying behind? Why don’t you go home?,” my mind starts whirling, for how am I going to explain how I am being stripped of the very basic, the very ordinary, the very human right to be reunited with my family in Gaza-Palestine.
I could start by explaining that Gaza has two passages assigned for travelling. One is controlled by Israel and the other is controlled by Egypt. Jawed between the occupying power, Israel, which has been laying a very strict siege upon Gaza for more than seven years, and the unstable Egypt, which has been isolating Gaza ever since it reverted to military rule, Gaza is locked.
Israel lets very few people out of Gaza, and even fewer people in. The Rafah crossing, which is controlled by Egypt, has always been Gaza’s only outlet to the world. The crossing had its good days, when Egypt was under Morsi’s rule. But since the Egyptian military took over and started cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood at home, they have viewed Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas, as an extension of the banned group. As a result, the military government headed by General Sisi is suffocating Gaza by destroying the tunnels, and by constantly closing the Rafah crossing, Gaza’s only passage to the world. And when Egypt does open the crossing, it’s for a few hours, for two or three days. The trip is mired with humiliation, danger, and uncertainty.
So how can one, with a child, go home, when all these thrones are engulfing it?
I’ve been locked out for two years now. Ever since I left Gaza in 2011 with my husband to come to live in Qatar, I have not had the chance to pay home a single visit. [End Page 474]
There’s nothing worse than the feeling of bitterness that results from such forced exile. It’s the bitterness of being a daughter, a sister, and a friend on Skype and Facebook. It’s the bitterness of missing good moments with family. It’s the bitterness of not being there when needed. It’s the bitterness of not being there when you want to. It’s the bitterness of sorely missing your loved ones so dear that you look for all sorts of options just to meet for even a week. Worst of all, it’s the bitterness that all this is happening just because I am a Palestinian from Gaza.
When I was pregnant, I fancied giving birth in Gaza. But that wasn’t possible. After I gave birth, I fancied throwing my daughter’s first birthday party in Gaza. That wasn’t possible either. I fancied taking her to the sea, to play in the sand with her grandparents.
For five years, Gaza was subjected to brutal Israeli attacks that left more than two thousand Palestinians killed. The most recent attack was operation “Protective Edge.” This war left enormous physical, psychological, and economic damage. Though it ended with the signing of a ceasefire agreement, after fifty-one deadly days, the situation of the Gaza siege remains intact. There was hope among Palestinians in Gaza that their sacrifices would eventually mean that the siege would be ended once and for all. But yet again Israel, colluding with Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, refuse to give Palestinians in Gaza their freedom to move in and out of Gaza.
Gaza now isn’t only a scene of apocalyptic destruction, it’s also a scene of a human tragedy, as survivors have to deal with thousands of wounded, displaced, and traumatized, with no way in or out of the Strip.
My family, fortunately, survived. During this war, I had serious fears that after I hung up, that would have been the last call with them or the last time I see them on Skype.
With this cycle of wars on Gaza, followed by inaction to end the siege, I wonder when I am going to see my family again. I wonder where I am going to see them. Visiting Gaza with a toddler is a risky mission, and my family visiting me would involve a long journey of waiting for crossings to open and visas to be issued.
I am locked out, and the people of Gaza are locked in. And we are both waiting, desperately waiting, for the day where we can just be together at home. Till then, one only has the secret whispers of prayers that this all ends. There’s nothing worse than the bitterness of being considered a lesser human. That’s what occupation does. It’s what Israel does, and what we have endured, whether we’re in Palestine or in exile. [End Page 475]
Read more stories and narratives published in this series here.
After all this time,
I still remember her
my doll, my first doll
Made by my grandma
As a gift for Eid
Black woolen hair
Sack of rice body
Filled with cotton
Pink dress with a small white apron
“She feels what you feel,
that’s why her face is blank”
Laila was my friend,
my only friend
we hopped scotched together
Read stories, swung on trees
Laila and me didn’t understand
The big world
we just knew that we were here
For each other
Laila fought my fears
“it’s just thunder!”
“men in ugly green uniform will go away soon”
“daddy will come back soon”
“Mommy is crying because of the onions”
I gave her safety
“if we have to run,
I will take you”
“I will never let anyone take you away from me”
“You are my best friend!
“I love you,”
But bad things happen
I was woken up
And taken from my bed
We ran to the sea
“We will come back for her”
That night Laila slept alone
In their bed
Laila was waiting her friend
From that night
Laila had a different name
There was no thunder anymore,
Laila remained blank
This a response to a poem I wrote in 2011 when I had hope that this region could change to the better.
written in reverse
with bloody ink
Crucified by thrones of freedom
Shrouds cover cradles
Rhymed by bullets, deafened with screams :
“It’s hopeless, it’s futile, it’s a failure…”
Figures of hope, of love, of salvation
beaten with the fall of new generation
Chains are tightening, the iron is rusting
crack the tone with impossible redemption
The tirades on screens
of tyrants who got back on their feet
and were chosen to be
the ultimate rulers
The epic in reverse
began with the end
and the end is the end.
dead at conception
dead at birth
dead when resuscitated
though it took a breath
and I’m afraid to live
I’m afraid to write,I’m afraid to die.
I no longer want to sacrifice
I no longer want to write
for I’m vainly going to die.
Dawn of Doom’s day,
The Sun rose from the east,
The bombs came from everywhere.
Angels of death,
Prepared for this early rapture.
Agents of death
Unleashed mayhem of fire, blood, and smoke.
Masses on barefoot,
Masses march to the unknown.
Masses torn, thrown, buried, burnt
Thuds of breath gave a sign of life,
Behind you there’s a new graveyard,
Before you there will be the next graveyard.
The night of Doom’s day,
The Sun set in the west.
The serpents of light
The sky was ruptured.
The earth was unraveled.
Angle of death
Stood at the gate.
Prepared for an early rapture.
A night of a phantasmagorical sleep or death.
No one could tell.
A whirlpool of silence and shells.
Endless wait or a sudden end.
Above you flames.
Beneath you flood.
The Sun of Judgment day;
A Resurrection of justice.
Under the floors of earth,
Armed with their faith,
Rose the oppressed.
Masses shook off the rubble
And fended for themselves.
Masses carry their wounds.
Masses march the known.
Behind you there was a graveyard.
Before you there is freedom’s rebirth.
— F. (@Palestinianism) July 18, 2014
The Eid clothes that won’t be worn,
The toys that won’t be bought,
The sweets that won’t be shared,
The ball that won’t be kicked,
The swing that’s no longer there,
The smiles that won’t be captured,
The walls that won’t get painted,
The crayons that won’t be used,
The bag that won’t be filled with pens and books,
The bathes that they won’t run from,
The tooth fairies that won’t come,
The school report that won’t be received,
The bed stories that won’t be read,
The beds that are emptied,
The teddies that won’t be hugged,
They are gone.
Tell her that they are gone.
Tell him that they are gone.
Tell her that they flew like birds,
Tell him that they are in a better place,
Tell her that her wails won’t bring them back,
Tell him to let it all out,
Tell her to kiss them one more time,
And one more,
And one last time,
Tell him to stroke their foreheads,
Like it’s bedtime…
Alone and petrified, she whispers
Weenak yamma, weenak yamma,
Ya habeeby yamma, ya habeeby yamma,
Alone and devastated, he sobs
Ya habeeby yabba…
— Ayman Mohyeldin (@AymanM) July 16, 2014