Naming
Thursday, 18 April 2024 13:26

Naming

Published in Poetry

Naming

by Chris Norris

Pray tell us, you wise men and scholars all,
Pray tell us by what law you take it ill,
This usage of what we see fit to call
Our Holocaust, we whose life’s-blood you spill.
How should we name it as the missiles fall,
As your IDF snipers aim and kill,
As children cower by the shattered wall,
Fear-frozen there to be picked off at will,
As smart bombs smash lives like a wrecking-ball
And the pretence of ‘peace-talks’ goes on still,
Though their ‘negotiators’ stick and stall
While thirty thousand victims pay the bill,
And the corpse-chewing ghouls of capital,
US-directed, wait to gorge their fill?

What name should we deploy when ‘genocide’
Is likewise one its agents won’t excuse,
Or when they so persistently elide
Those overlapping sets, ‘Israelis’/‘Jews’,
So that the ‘anti-semite’ charge can ride
The global airwaves and ensure the news
Gets round so fresh atrocities may hide
From such a charge as ‘genocide’, or use
That sacrosanct word, ‘holocaust’, applied
To one case only lest its usage lose
The needful force and have the case re-tried,
New victims this time rising to accuse
Those who’d have their past victimage provide
Full cover when they wear the victor’s shoes?

‘Nakba’: a word so singular, unique,
So non-transferable that it might stand
As our equivalent: a word we speak
With awe, with sorrow for the lives and land
So brutally denied us, yet don’t seek
To set up, by some God-endorsed command,
A shibboleth that then requires we wreak
Such vengeance in its name as now they’ve planned,
Those Israelites who think it shows them weak
Or faithless if they fail to have it banned,
All usage of that word, and force oblique,
Evasive ways around on those they’d brand
As cursed Amalekites who’d dare critique
Their sacred land-grab as its bounds expand.

On one point above all let’s be quite clear:
It’s to the State of Israel they’re addressed,
These bitter words long bred of anger, fear,
Survivor-guilt, and need to speak out lest
Our witness-bearing voices disappear
And leave us – final insult! – dispossessed
Of freedom, land, and any future ear
Inclined to listen and to make its test
Of truth that stark reproof to every smear
Laid on us by their allies in the West,
The US and its satellites, whose sphere
Has long resounded to the wish expressed
By Netanyahu in his holding dear
Those tales of war, civilian slaughter stressed.

The State of Israel, then, a ‘Jewish State’
But how so? culture, history, language, creed,
Or (spare us!) gene-pool – anyway some trait
Or mix thereof that’s commonly agreed,
Amongst the faithful, somehow to create
Such bonds of comity as meet their need,
No matter how all tribes miscegenate,
Creed notwithstanding. Still we must concede
It shapes whole lifetimes, weighs on them like fate
Or lifts them like a future fit to feed
Millennial hopes with dreams that long await
The promised outcome – never guaranteed –
Yet rarely, as at present, compensate
Hopes lost by taking Saul’s atrocious lead.

Some there’ve been, Holocaust survivors, those
Like Primo Levi, who were quick to see
How it would go, how it so often goes,
With words made sacrosanct by state decree,
Or names whose unique resonance bestows
Full rights of use to holders of a key
Possessed exclusively by one who owes
Allegiance to that sole catastrophe
That seals its utterance. Then it’s friends or foes,
The rightful users, those presumed to be
Its true custodians, licensed to disclose
Which creeds or tribes have bent the suppliant knee
And which new spawn of Amalek oppose
God’s edict and invite calamity.

We Palestinians suffer it, your ban,
Each time you or your US sponsors draw
That line again, so crucial to their plan
For ‘Middle East’ dominion that the law
Of usage be upheld, that nothing can
Henceforth be suffered to approach the awe
Its naming must evoke. Yet what began
At Amalek when raging Saul first swore
To God he’d spare no member of that clan,
Man, woman or child, is what we see once more
In this our ghetto, this our Bantustan,
As your Apartheid state makes total war
On us last proxies of the Musselman,
That victim of all victims, to ignore
Whose mute appeal’s to spurn the plea that ran
In blood down every shibboleth-bolted door.

Garden Walls
Thursday, 18 April 2024 13:26

Garden Walls

Published in Poetry

Garden walls

by Simon Haines

Surround garden walls
shield from worlds
to grow flower meadows and vegetables
wholesomely in rich soil.

But no protection from sniper fire
nor deafening kettled screams
nor whimpering newly orphaned
nor whistling shells
nor grumbling rumbling tanks
whose diesel fumes attack lungs
nor reeking flesh from bombsite homes
nor boasting bully oppressors.

We hide behind porous walls
toiling Monday to Friday
gardening Saturday
churching Sunday.

I'm Explaining a Few Things... About Gaza 
Thursday, 18 April 2024 13:26

I'm Explaining a Few Things... About Gaza 

Published in Films
The Art Of Resistance presents a short film about Gaza. Image above: Palestinian News & Information Agency (Wafa) in contract with APA images
 
There is a climate of intimidation concerning criticism of Israel. Anyone who speaks out about the Gaza genocide, particularly creative figures, is certain to suffer media attack. Roger Waters is probably the best known example. Eighty years ago, the treatment of the great Nobel prize winning poet, Pablo Neruda, was similar. Until the Spanish Civil War of 1936-38, Neruda had been celebrated as the great modern Spanish love poet. The war changed that. It drew Neruda into the centre of politics. 
 
Neruda's great poem, I'm Explaining a Few Things, like Picasso's painting, was created in response to the bombing of civilians by Hitler and Mussolini's airforces at Guernica in 1937. This atrocity resulted in the death of over 1000 civilians. As of today, December 11th, 2023, over eighteen times that number have been buried in the rubble of Gaza. Almost eight thousand children have been killed by Israeli bombing. If he were alive today, maybe Neruda's poem would have gone something like this. 
 
I'm Explaining a Few Things... About Gaza 
Text by John Graham Davies, after an original poem by Pablo Neruda, translated by Nathaniel Tarn. 
Readers: John Graham Davies, Tayo Aluko, Amina Atiq @aminaatiqartist, Haneen @scousersforpalestine 
Producer: Chris Bernard 
Cameras: Hazuan Hashim, Phil Maxwell 

Editor: Hazuan Hashim

I'm explaining a few things.....about Gaza - 7 min - 2023 from Hazuan Hashim and Phil Maxwell on Vimeo.

Gaza
Thursday, 18 April 2024 13:26

Gaza

Published in Poetry

Gaza

by Chrys Salt

Mum cooks Zac’s favourite pasta
slices, stirs -
his mum’s not missing, buried in their house.
It’s not her hand he sees, a ring she wears
a ring he knows and screams.

Six-year-old Farah searches for her doll
can’t sleep without it but it’s blown sky high
with letters, spices, photos, toys,
every brick and stick of memory -
but Isabel has hers,
a rabbit cuddled close.
Snuggled down her duvet
pink with unicorns
she begs another story before lights go out.

Another roams a battered hospital, shouts
the names of missing mum, dad, twin,
hunts the littered wounded corridors
but Dad’s not here,
he orders Arsenal strip online.
Pumps up a leather ball.
Tells to mind the glass in the conservatory.

A swaddled daughter in his arms.
he stumbles down alley ways
of garbage, piss and shit
discarded shoes, bent mudguards, pans
searching for a place to bury her,
but Clare’s not dead, she laughs
high on a home-made hoist dad built
to fly her in the garage
in a fairy frock.

Every stricken little face
kids in the park with skateboards,
nosing Shaz’s counter-top for sweets
the lad with AHD next door
my grandchildren
made sudden orphans,
sudden broken things
not to be mended bodies, minds,
not to be salvaged from their savage lot.
Not to be schooled or fed
wear Arsenal strip
kick balls
Not to be cuddled, loved by those they’ve lost
not to be tucked in bed with stories
or a goodnight kiss.
Not to be any more at home,
for home is blood and rubble.
Bed is this.

Dahiya Doctrine
Thursday, 18 April 2024 13:26

Dahiya Doctrine

Published in Poetry

Dahiya Doctrine

by Nick Moss

Bibi and Yoav banging on the table, demanding
Ashes, dust, blood.
The IDF playing moksha patam with groups of the displaced.
"Move south of Wadi Gaza";
So Khan Younis must be safe
Until it isnt.
Plenty of snakes. No ladders.
Bombs land on the square
At the same time you do.
Ashes, dust, blood.

A line of refugees walking through
A topography of ruin
Beit Hanoum razed
Jabalia razed
Gaza City razed
Khan Younis razed.
Al-Mawasi
Is "the humanitarian zone."
After that, the sea.
Let the human animals drown...
Ashes, dust, blood.

Outside the "humanitarian zone"
Is given over to inhumanity
The peculiar , debauched genius
That can turn a hospital or a school
Into a mass grave.
"We are now rolling out the Gaza Nakba."
Revenant families caper in the wreckage
Of the Dar al-Shifa death zone
Ashes, dust, blood

Article 51(5)(b) of 1977 Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions
(and the Statute of the International Criminal Court )
Ashes, dust, blood
“intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack
Ashes, dust, blood
will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects … which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct
Ashes, dust, blood
overall military advantage anticipated” constitutes a war crime in international armed conflicts
Ashes, dust, blood
Major-General Gadi Eizenkot: “What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on"
Ashes, dust, blood
“We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. ”
Ashes, dust, blood

A group of half-naked Palestinian men
Illuminated by the light of an IDF jeep
Single file, blindfolded, hands bound,
Linked together by flex.
Due process ceased long ago.
All of this land of ashes, dust and blood
Is a permanent black site.
Min an-nahr ʾilā l-baḥr

The Breaking of Bread and Catastrophe: Two poems on Gaza
Thursday, 18 April 2024 13:26

The Breaking of Bread and Catastrophe: Two poems on Gaza

Published in Poetry

The breaking of bread

by Janet Sillett

Families queuing for round flat loaves
each morning before dawn
the struggle for bread

Sharq Bakery in Gaza City bombed late October 2023
in the doorway blood mixes with flour
the smell of baking lingering in the space that is left

I recall Jewish black bread, caraway studded
the scent of my grandmother’s house in Salford 1960
reconstruction in flour and yeast

 

Catastrophe

by Janet Sillett

Starved of light
an exodus in slow motion before the rains of a Gazan winter
the memory of dispossession in every stone

I picture the grey Polish landscape of my imagination
lines of people displaced moving
always moving

when people are unnamed
there is no need for bread

 

Author's Note

More than 70 percent of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have been displaced since 8 October 2023

Up to 2 million Jews fled the pogroms in the Pale of Settlement in Eastern Europe between 1881 and 1914

 

For Gaza
Thursday, 18 April 2024 13:26

For Gaza

Published in Poetry

For Gaza

by Mike Jenkins

They dried up the terrain
Like parched riverbeds with only names left

They bombed the shops and warehouses -
Every child's stomach a crater

They cut off the electricity
So darkness was a way of life

They stopped the journalists from entering;
Who queued before danger like relief trucks

They blew up the roads , those 'potholes'
The pocks of many missiles

They ordered a million to move on ,
Who were followed by spying drones

They blockaded air , sea and land,
Huge noose of every element

While the people ran out of bodybags -
Soldiers on the border, inhuman predators.

Image above: by Alisdare Hickson. A Black man carrying a placard "Gaza - Stop the Massacre" at a protest near Downing Street in London. In the background, a placard "#Endthesiege". This was the day after the U.S. moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and 61 unarmed Palestinians, including several children, a baby, and journalist Yasser Murtada, were killed by the Israeli army during a demonstration near Gaza's border fence.

In Gaza
Thursday, 18 April 2024 13:26

In Gaza

Published in Poetry

In Gaza

by Kevin McCann, with image above by Martin Gollan

There’s a boy,
Maybe three, maybe four,
Dirty knees,
Dusty face,
Tousled hair
And within arm’s reach
There’s another,
Probably his brother,
Head bandaged,
One eye patched over,
His tee-shirt blood streaked.

They reach out,
One to another,
Try to hold hands

But can’t manage.

They’re shaking too much.