Where

Kathy Engel

The message comes through aol.com, finds me off
balance in a small school in Jersey, snow
puffing down, no newspaper in sight.
Hi love, the message reads, thinking of you
in London, heart in Gaza.
Unsigned, I know the e-mail address like my own
name, reply too quickly, no words in the text, then
correct my mistake, love, I write, yes
heart in Gaza. I don’t know
what else to say.

*

Is there a poem in Gaza that hasn’t been written?

*

I know you’re Palestinian, he said to me, I know you are
a man in the Dheisheh Camp.

Guards questioned me at the Telaviv airport:
where did we go, did we visit a mosque, a synagogue

did I eat the poems of Darwish
drink coffee he brewed, each grain an oud

standing at his window of fire
my tax dollars shining through?

In my suitcase I wrapped
shards of a bulldozed home, the only teacup

flew back, a dirty gull with a passport
each story contraband.

We are related, I rub olive oil on arms, belly, neck, soak bread in it –
I had to see for myself, after Seder’s bitter herbs

taste the lie.
Now I understand, my mother said, now I understand

reading my journey, Jewish girl, promised land, betrayal
a poem in Gaza.

(for S.)

Kathy Engel is an activist, poet, teacher, mother. She teaches at the Art and Public Policy Program of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and co directs, with Alexis De Veaux, Lyrical Democracies. She is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus and will be a featured reader at the Split This Rock Festival, March 22-25 in Washington, DC, This poem originally appeared in Vandal. Melissa Tuckey is the poetry editor for FPIF and on the board of Split This Rock.