Two Poems on Gaza

Pomegranates

Was it pomegranates we used to eat?

I cant quite remember
it was before all the bombs
fell everywhere even on that church
in the backyard of grandma’s house,
when grandma did not believe in Jesus
and pushed her little sister
off of the window sill,
then her mother got pregnant again.

The new daughter got the dead
daughter’s name;
it was Aisha-the living one.

I think they were pomegranates,
we’d pick them, you and I mom,
from the tree,
red pearls they were
perfect sets of teeth.
we’d eat them so well
and stain our shirts with the mess.

It was nice then mom,
before the bombs, before you got sick.

Oh, the pomegranates
my cousin-who three days later,
got shot in the lungs-
reached for the highest one.

Mom I told you,
if we put a band aid on his chest,
he get better.

Mom are you sure they were pomegranates?

Somehow I keep thinking of little figs
you’d break your arm to reach,
as they grew ripe and plump.
You’d sneak outside, past midnight,
and hum as you swallow
their little strings of joy.

Mom remember how it was only
the pomegranate tree
that remained standing
when you leaped off of the couch
and over my body screaming.

“I swear I will come up there
to your damn chopper
and scope your eyes out
if one inch of this missile
pierces the edges of my daughter.”

Yes mom, it was pomegranates you couldn’t chew,
when your body got infested with morphine,
when you spent July sleeping
before you slept forever in august.

I don’t know how to make them sweeter,
you never gave me the recipe,
and now I cant ask you about them,
or about anything,
so I grab one and stare at its shell,
and wonder if that’s how the earth is now
harsh on the surface,
but housing your body;
your limbs now pearls
and you are the lightest pomegranate
the reddest there is.

Talephone

During the last war, people in the West Bank called random numbers in Gaza to lend an ear.

1.

I crossed checkpoints everyday carrying a box of tangerines
thinking I have mastered steadfastness, I have given the finger
to the occupation(without really giving the finger).
I used to tell the cameras we are Palestinians,
we know how to live.
Now as the missile knocks on the front door I think,
I should have stayed home.

2.

When I was in high school I knew a guy that died.
He slipped in the shower.
A broom went right through his stomach.

3.

Yes I cheated in the history exam, how to expect me to learn all this crap
about the Ottoman Empire that took us 400 years back?
You know what? I blame them for how bad I am in math.

4.

With hardship comes comfort,
with hardship comes comfort.

5.

I have loved the air,
I have loved the air,
but I will take a thousands stabs,
than succumb to people with little hats,
embracing with their forehead,
a wall.

6.

When they told me it was a girl,
I cried.
They brought chocolate, candy,
wiped my tears as I let her suck
my nipple.
I’d rather hear her skull
shatter than her hymen.

7.

My uncle used to see things:
the battle of Algiers,
British soldiers with swords,
and Cleopatra tanning
by the Nile.
He said God has lifted the veil
off of his face,
and now he was cursed
with too much vision.

8.

When he caught me at the border,
he said “work for us, and we’ll protect you.”
I didn’t want dirty money,
I didn’t want the stink of dead bodies
to fester in my brain.
I didn’t want anybody to warn me
before a bomb dropped.
I wanted to die dignified.

Now I’m having second thoughts.

9.

You promised a homeland,
but I was satisfied with bread.

I would wake up,
tug a flower in my dress,
bake spinach inside dough
rising from the heart
of dew.

I loved tea with mint,
dripping sugar
and little feelings
I could afford to contain.

Now you sit in an office draped
with people holding victory signs and I
am so alone.

10.

Gaza is for resilience.
Gaza is for people thicker
than stone.
Gaza is for those who can walk
through shit.
Gaza is for people who smell
of stale water.
I am a boat.

11.

If I didn’t have a head on those broad shoulders,
and a dream to get the hell out of this place,
I would have loved you.

12.

those who believe
do not grieve

13.

There is a window
fitting itself into my rainbow.

I am an orange,
a peel in the face of a tree,
but I am not afraid.

People talk about death
like it’s a complicated thing,
the teeth of a knife
sterile from blood.

I am green,
a patch of grass in the desert
bursting of spring.

After, there is a different
kind of morning, but now
I am mastering
waiting.

Tala Abu Rahmeh, a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus, is a young writer based in Palestine. Her work has been published by several magazines and anthologies, including 25 Under 25, edited by Naomi Shihab Nye (Harper Collins). She is currently working as an instructor at Bard College’s chapter in Jerusalem. Her blog is: http://thespacepastsurvival.tumblr.com/