Monday, 21 May 2018 09:12

To My Wife, from an Israeli Gaol

Written by
in Poetry
To My Wife, from an Israeli Gaol

To My Wife, from an Israeli Gaol

by Chris Norris

'She kept saying: “You have to go. You have to go”', recalled one aunt, Ahlam, 30. ‘She was the most dedicated of all of us.’
Wesal, 14, was shot dead on Monday, one of more than 60 people killed as Israeli snipers fired on protesters. The teenager has left behind a family who are grieving, but who also feel purpose in their loss.‘Now she is dead, I’m ready,’ said another aunt, Anwar. ‘After what she did, we are not afraid.’
- The Guardian, May 19th 2018

I don't know what to do, dear heart,
I don't know what to say.
It's just that when those settlers start
Bad-mouthing us I stay
And bad-mouth back, or else take part
In stone-fights, like the day
Last year when bits of martial-art
Bravado let me play
The hero and appear street-smart.

But that was months ago, my dear,
When things were bad but not
As bad as now. Months on, I fear,
The toll of all those shot
And killed or maimed will mean that we're,
As per their master-plot,
A remnant doomed to disappear
From this old trouble-spot
With just the rubble left to clear.

They use live bullets on us now,
Live rounds designed to kill
As many as their 'rules' allow,
Those rules that let them spill
Our blood as fast as they can plough
It back beneath the hill
Of our wrecked homes. And yet, somehow,
It reaffirms our will
That no one break the Nakba vow.

My dear, such things I've seen that it's
As much as I can do
To grasp how readily this fits
With all that we've been through
These seven decades; how it commits
Us fighters to pursue
The path that most directly pits
A cause both just and true
Against the next live-bullet blitz.

For I've now witnessed genocide
As the unspoken plan
For stretching Israel's borders wide
So that our dwindling clan
Might lay their nationhood aside
And finish what began
In turf-wars duly sanctified
By taking the Koran
Or the Old Testament as guide.

But argument's no use when they're
Dead-set on just the same
Brute tactics as were brought to bear
Against them in the name
Of a Volk who refused to share
The land with those who came
Of ‘alien stock’ so must go where,
As here in Gaza, shame
And suffering are their daily share.

The Warsaw Ghetto: that's the place
That always comes to mind
When each new grab for living-space
Leaves other folk confined
To the fast-tightening embrace
Of borders watchtower-lined
And justified on grounds of race,
Or creed, or claims enshrined
In some scriptural database.

And so they drive us, ever more
Grief-toughened, out to meet
The wire, the guns, the daily score
Of deaths, the forced retreat,
And this new bloodbath of a war
That sets us Gaza street -
Trained skirmishers to face, offshore
And inland, those elite
Shock troops with weaponry galore.

So what else should we do against
These Axis powers – US
And Israel – that have us ring-fenced
On every side, and press
So hard on us that we're incensed
Enough to turn distress
Into the rage of victims tensed
In pogrom-readiness
For harms that can't be recompensed.

One thing I know: we'll not be done
With fascism in all
Its protean forms till we've begun,
Backs hard against the wall,
To lift our gaze from the short run
And look to the long haul
When every lying tale they've spun
Becomes a conscience-call
For David's stone against Goliath's gun.


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Chris Norris

Christopher Norris is Distinguished Research Professor in Philosophy at the University of Cardiff. He is the author of more than thirty books on aspects of philosophy, politics, literature, the history of ideas, and music.