In solidarity with Gaza


Fady Joudah

Over treasure and land some texts will say it had
Little to do with slavery or the newly
Discovered yellow planet
Few men watched the glaciers recede
From shuttles they had built
During the hemorrhage years
When they’d gathered all the genes down from the ledges
I’ll be a fig or a sycamore tree
Or without hands
By then doctors and poets
Would have found a cure for prayer
Or have you shoved the door shut
In the face of the dark?
Have you body and light the trap
Of retribution doing unto you
What it does to others? You protest
In the streets and papers and I leave
For a faraway land
Where with pill and scalpel
And a distant reckoning
If he should lick his lips
Or clench his fist I shall find his second left toe
Infected puffy
From a bump
I’ll lance it and squeeze
Out the pus and offer
Him an antibiotic
I can’t refuse therefore I am
The first time I saw you it was hot I was fed up
The second time your wife gave birth to a macerated boy
I had nothing to tell you
About letting go of the dying
In the morning you were gone
Had carried your father back to your house
His cracked skull
I didn’t know that was your wife
When I raised my voice
To those who were praying
From behind the wall to keep it down
I was trying to listen to your baby’s heartbeat
With a gadget a century old
From so much loss giving birth
If you give blood in the desert you won’t
Get it back not your iron pills or magic hat
I put your thin
Hemoglobin up to the light and called out
To the donors Donors
If you want to know your blood type
And it’s a match
You must donate
Few came some indifferent to my condition
Not having heard of it
And willing anyhow
And the world is south
The night a bandit with gasoline
And I’m your dancing lizard mirth
I put my one arm up
And bring my one foot down on a hot zinc top
The nearest hospital was the dawn
She didn’t know her daughter on her back was
The entry wound and she the exit
She ran a brothel so
The officer said
Where the rebels came and went
And ran into the government boys
Her girl’s femur the size of the bullet
He was from the other side rumors
Had a bullet through his left arm
Or had it bitten off by a camel
A camel elephant of the desert never forgets what you are
If you aren’t kind to it
When I met him his bladder was the size
Of a watermelon his prostate a cantaloupe
You cannot catheterize
A man forever
Every hour on the hour his left arm stump
Hanging his good arm holding
His penis his buttocks in deep squeeze
A charge from the rear without spillage
This poor murderous thief desperately single-
Handedly began slapping his own ass
As if he were dashing a stallion in a raid
On some unarmed village
The mind in the field
The brine in the field
Whether I
Is a diphthong codependent on
What isn’t there to stay in the field
The good you act is equal
To the good you doubt
Most have lost many
You are either prosperous
Or veteran in the field
A mother offers not necessarily
Sells her one-eyed son
For an education if you’ll bring him back
And stone dust for one
With congenital illness
And little boy with malaria
Same old gas
Money mixed with blood
Transfusion the doctor’s perfect record broken
Nobility of taking
A life you
Who must walk to and from your house
The jeep’s upkeep
The donkey-cart ambulance
One boot left behind
The one-boot photo I wanted
On a book military black the quad a clinic’s
Special Forces spun
By his dangling heels from
The pickup truck rushed
To a central town altered combative
With two scalp lacerations and blood
In his auditory canal
I was a lover of loss I tossed
The boot in the capital of suffering
via Poetry Foundation

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On the rock

I could smell the wood of the small door as we stood in front of it. A woman in a blood red dress answered with a familiar smile. Her face was lightly tanned in a way that suggested she experienced life’s difficulties gracefully. She embraced her son in a tight whisper along with her arms, then pulled back to grasp my hand.
“Darling,” she intoned, welcoming. “So happy to see you.” She pulled me inside, and I could only wonder at her disarming warmth. “What a treat it is to see my only child, and looking so content.” She winked at me as I followed my partner in my new life to a table in the small, bright, alcove by the window. I could not call him my husband, as I wished. We met on the rock while most were still grieving their loved ones, and we only leaned to hear murmurings of what the future would hold. We didn’t dare suggest the kind of permanence we craved. Afraid of losing our modest, safe new space, we hesitated to visit his remaining relative until now. Few inhabited the island she lived on; it had not been surveyed for visible and invisible dangers.

“Now eat, darlings,” his mother implored, pouring a meaty stew into the earthy bowls in front of us. I looked at him in shock as he began to devour it eagerly. He hadn’t eaten anything resembling meat as long as I’d known him, citing the appearance of a rabbit skewered into pieces after one of the blasts.

“Go on, dear,” she encouraged me. “We can talk later, after you get some rest. That journey is exhausting.”

I heard a groan beside me, the first noise he’d made since we arrived.

“I’ve gotta lie down,” he mumbled, without looking at me, and disappeared into a corner of the room.

She smiled at me. “What about you, dear? Are you tired?”

I shook my head, wondering at its sudden weight as I pushed my bowl out of the way and let it sink down to my arms. I lifted it after a moment, and found myself swimming, struggling to breathe and move in the changed air. I gave up and hid, my head back on the table. I felt a soft movement against my scalp and through the sliver of space between my arms I saw a silvery, wavy strand fall between my lengths.

“Stay, darling.” Her whisper was a threat, and though my heartbeat quickened and I struggled inside my body, I fell into black.

When I woke in the dim beginnings of nightfall, I first thought of my companion, and now, my fellow captive. I struggled to rise from my chair, my legs feeling like they hadn’t been used in days, my heart still beating wildly, as if a newer, more potent adrenaline had been injected in my veins. Even in the early days of fleeing the disaster, I had never felt such a keen panic. I found him lying on the floor in a corner of the room. How could I have missed the inevitable sound of his body falling? I gasped at the dark line of blood running from the corner of his lip to his jaw. I told myself it was just a cut, and gathered all my strength to coax him into enough consciousness to walk with me supporting him. Miraculously, I managed to unlatch and open the door. I was sure she had locked us inside. My abated heartbeat spiked as I turned to see her standing a short distance away, her long hair impossibly still in the dusty wind.

“You had better run, darlings,” she called, her voice light and melodic, as if she was summoning schoolchildren. “The ferry leaves before sundown.”

We’ll swim if we have to, I thought, as I turned and hobbled away as fast as I could.


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Prose poem working draft

Yesterday snow blossomed into the open door of my hurt hand. A little spring here, it would kill all of the animals. I think I can smell what a thousand crocuses would look like. At first, you do all the right things, then everything is poisonous.

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That broad glowing sky shook
and I couldn’t resist

today’s medical term:
atrial fibrillation,
a kind of quivering

I tried to connect
to you when we were
openly young.

What is it called when
you have no hooks
to grapple with?

Another someone would
go out in that same night
and this is why I
told her.

You and I are not
the waiting kind.
This much I
allow myself to label.

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Writing Tip

“The way to write is to throw your body at the mark when your arrows are spent.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson



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Letter to Immigrant Daughters

I ask you not to read this until at least
your eyes have read pain,
which you think you will recognize but
can’t know until, alone without
the shattering reflection of it,
you can still feel it in the room.

I ask you not to gently pat your desires
down when they are half-grown seedlings
sprouting from your old blood, but to lace
a fence around their delicate progress. When
you cage a thing to remember it later,
it is never the same. The key is
remembering that they are perennial.

And now, for all the talk about
blood: it runs on streets, it boils and it
freezes. Why is it important
to keep a hard, new chip of this
in a brain? I don’t tell you so that
so you can know your job
will be different.

Because the job will always
be harder, whether snow
needs to be shoveled to make room
for new life or death, whether
you speak to the ones that inspect
your native face, or a ghost,
whether you are leaving a dirt
plain or a thick forest.

I can only hold the mirror to
show you parts of those
before you-not
the ones you left behind. They are
packed into the portable vessels
of you, they will spill and run free
this is certain.
I just can’t tell you
if you’ll notice-important
to stitch up your own wounds,
before cleaning up someone else’s


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Past time for excuses

“If I waited til I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.”

Anne Taylor

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