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Ghosts of Palestine

This morning, as I sat in the midst of schoolbooks, notebooks, pencils, crayons, and children, I suddenly felt the urgent desire to just get out. It was too late for a walk to the beach, and the flies are terrible right now, so jumping rope or sitting upstairs on the roof for a bit were out. Then I remembered that Sukhailah and I had been talking about some things we needed to get from the suq– fabric and yarn , earrings for the baby, and lotion. I asked Khalil about going, then finished up teaching the little ones as quickly as I could. Baby Asmaa went to sleep, and Sukhailah, Hudfhaifah and I headed out the door.

It was hot. It was sunny. Flies were everywhere. Yet at first it didn’t matter- I wanted to get out of the house, and we did need to get our things. We trudged onward, passing herds of goats eating out of garbage piles, men selling limes by the side of the road, old cob structures, wounded walls gaping, their lives ended long ago. We walked by the daycare- it had been suddenly, tragically, abandoned when one of the walls it shared with a much older structure gave way, killing at least one child. As always, the sight drew me in. The wall that collapsed looked like a candle with wax pouring down one side of it into the newer building of the daycare below. In combination with the old broken-down houses, it reminded me forcefully of the descriptions of the destruction to houses, hospitals, and schools during Operation Cast Lead, as described in the book, “Gaza Beneath the Bombs”, which I’ve been reading for the last few days. Suddenly the sun seemed too bright, the day too hot. I found myself rushing through my shopping, wanting only to get home to my little ones again.

This evening Asmaa was fussy, so I took the children up to the roof for some fresh air after supper. There was a light breeze, and clouds seemed to race across the sky. The almost full moon played a game of hide and seek with us, and the sound of the ocean roared in our ears. Asmaa finally calmed down a bit, just as the wind began to pick up. Soon the top of the tree that leans over our balcony began to whip back and forth. Then, miraculously, the sky opened up and rain began to fall, a tearful accompaniment to the sad moaning of the sea and the frustrated, furious howling of the wind. The children raised their voices and began to run, to skip, to twirl; to dance the rain, to sing the wind, to shout the ocean. I sat, eyes closed, and simply breathed, and I felt the tension and frustration that I had felt earlier in the day slowly seep out of me. As I felt my shoulders lower and my stomach unclench, I realized that the release that I had hoped for in the morning had come to me now, in this impromptu and unexpected evening storm. It was as if the day had held its breath along with me, and now, with the coming of night, the coming of wind and rain, we could finally breathe out our deep sorrow and fierce joy, and share our song with the voice of stars and moon, and let our tears for all of the lost flow into the welcoming arms of earth.

Ghosts of Palestine


how many days

the sunset rises

from darkened seas

how many lives


they wander evening streets

spice scented suqs

voices caught in

parched throats

cold hands that once

held a child’s toy

snatch a mother’s dress

grasp air

bare feet, torn, broken

wrapped tight

a whisper of a long ago

afternoon of life and


while laughter of the living

spirals up to

star flecked skies

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