Today while the sun’s out and the heat is scorching,
while the sky’s blue and the birds are singing,
while the Blackpool tower can be seen on the pier,
where the colourful huts match the numerous deck chairs,
I’m going to take you for a walk.
Past the fish and chip shops you’re used to,
the fruit machines and rock that takes ages to chew,
past the pleasure rides and the noisy seagulls,
the rowdy children hiding in the pirate ship’s hull
and all the people sat bathing under the sun,
to a different beach across our shores
and you’re going to question me about this tour.
Like why there are no birds flying above this sea,
and why the beach seems so lifeless and empty.
Why the only towers you can see for miles
are inhabited by soldiers speckling the scene with gunfire.
Why the naval ships across the sea
are ready for battle – waiting for an enemy.
You’ll ask why there’s an acrid stench in the air
and why the fisherman’s huts have disappeared.
Why the bunting looks like shark teeth cutting across us both
and why the smoke and sand are making us choke.
You’ll ask me as I hold tight to your hand,
what the broken doll-like figures are in the sand.
You’ll ask me why they’re grey and unmoving,
and I’ll desperately try to tell you something soothing
That these were not four boys playing footie on the beach
That they had not tried to run to avoid the second shell’s reach
Propelled at them through naval ships of the occupied
No, these are not the little boys who died!
Ill try and say, that they had not left their parents that day
telling them they’ll see them later, when they’d finished their play,
that they had not been laughing, joking- soaking up the sun,
that now their parents will never see them run,
through the fisherman huts,
or collecting crabs and seashells.
Instead Muhammed, Ismail, Ahed and Zakariyah will do this now, in Heaven’s realm.
You’ll see me try and console a father’s broken heart
and I will try to hold it together, but I can’t even start
to contemplate how that father must feel,
when he opens a plastic bag he carries, to reveal
the remains of what is left of his beautiful little boy.
You ask me why this journey has taken us ages,
and I’ll tell you to be patient for wisdom comes in stages.
I’ll explain that some people can only go so far,
and that there are numerous blockades, borders – outsiders are barred.
We are blinded, fed lies with veils around our hearts,
But the good arm themselves with knowledge to impart!
And when that happens, compassion transcends all restrictions-
Sees no colour, no religion, no creed, no race, no categorisations.
You only have to feel, Son, and put yourself in their shoes,
for one day this tragedy could happen to you.
‘They came for them in the morning, they’ll come for us in the night!’
Those that appear mighty, my Son, are not always right.
Open up your eyes, be receptive to the truth,
that Palestine will be free one day, and our patience WILL bear fruit…….
© Hafsah Aneela Bashir
Rafeef Ziadah ‘We teach life, sir!’
Today I speak
Do you hear me?
Not in the tear of my dress
From the hem to the neck
Nor the clinks of the belts
Leathering us together
Nor in the wail of the child left behind
To the tread of boots
Trying to march to safety.
Do you see me?
Not in the burns on my flesh
Nor the bite marks on my breasts
Nor in the glints of glass
Sitting in kidney trays
Removed from wombs.
More than the names upon names
Gathered in green boxes at the end of a page
Or in pocket book images of
clothes, berry stained.
Do you think it’s my cry you hear
From the sargija’s hollow?
Caustic, strained, strange.
You won’t find me
among the archives tallying the dead.
In the absence of our men we kept
our home fires burning,
fought as best as we could
while white eagles descended.
The kilns of the battlefield became our wombs instead.
Sedated, we ploughed through
Stomachs gnawing as men walked close by,
bodies trembled at a glimpse of uniform
as we tried to stand upright and defy
the image of victim, the secret, the shame.
This was not our doing, it was done to us
as the world sang ‘never again’.
Our voices rise
hoping someone will listen,
the tentative tongue
belongs to thousands of others, absent.
Will you ever hear them all?
Let their lives unfold a rich tapestry, now gone?
Can you see them lying among the forests now,
scented with lilies?
Do you recognise this strength, my resilience, my name?
Do you know me?