. The Dead | London Progressive Journal
A non-partisan journal of the left.

The Dead

Tue 22nd Jul 2014

To be born in 1947 was an act of faith.
White-scarved women – so they say – attended the birth. Behind, murmured many a man in that erstwhile faith.
A state was born. Displaced diaspora:
At last a national home and grand family lore.
Stillborn the state of Palestine: diaspora new.
The world at large approved, and shut one eye.
An infant cried lustily, and they smiled
When, conscienceless and consciousless, he nothing saw.
So, at least, my teacher said to me. It is
Difficult, I think, to part pictures built
In memory, from stories my teacher said to me.
But what, what went wrong?
I asked in an Innocence that had not lived before.
My teacher, the collective conscience of my people, Explained all. He shouted, bantered and
Talked at me all the while waving his hands.
I understood nothing, was not meant to understand.
What I tell, imaged its form through my mind.
Of people lost, found, and lost again.
True to fact or not: It is, in truth, human emotions. Let me, then, cast that mind far far behind.

In the beginning was the people.
Holy land behind and exile before.
Marching, dragging forward surge, towards a future.
Future unknown from whence born exiled souls.
Temporary camps for years to come, some
Never to return – others connecting endless
Day to endless day with hope.
Thus days fused into nights the daylong time.
And still – no return.

Resolved: some left the camps.
Only you – and you alone – will regain the loss.
But many a man, woman, and child,
Beware the hypocritical phrase,
Even they, stayed, unchanging except to the left.
Damned by truth, history, and the camp.
People multiplied at the speed of words.
Then there were too many words:
Euphoric. That was all.
July twenty-third.
Suez came and went.
People, words, and confusion pyramid upwards:
Get blown and come back again.

I well remember how to Nablus my father and I.
Never betray your trust; I shall give to you now.
Look: there! My father’s land. Here the square.
Over there fields: plentiful food.
Very apt in moderate climes. Clothes colourful.
Every one embroidered by land-licked hands.
We had tea – black and sweet and strong.
In a roofless shack with Fatima and folk.
I stared at her face.
Tattooed: she laughed.
I well remember how final it all was.
That temporary camp.
Soon to return.

One day we tried and lost.
And on the seventh day we awoke.
Two exiles were never to be the same again:
Camps will temporise.
Palestinians everywhere will silence that word.
Jerusalem, Karameh and Amman.
Beirut, Tal Zaatar and bloodied soil.

It was said of Lebanon once –
Many things were said:
No victor no vanquished.
General consensus: all shared alike.
Fine balances reliant on fine spirits.

And many more.
Freedom of the exile.
Love of the free.
Even, business as usual.

Palestine’s last stand.
That it was wrong – crying wrong –
That it was sad – damning sad –
That it was tragic – killing tragic –
It was Palestine’s last stand:
Against faceless metal, swooping metal;
Exploding metal.

All patience was lost – being lost:
Menachem, shalom! said the leader of the free world.
Mr. President: we never hurt that baby.
They burnt her – or was it him?
Mr. President: those we killed weren’t on that picture.
Mr. President – of the free world.

Row upon row of Palestine’s last stand;
Dispersed once again to friendly nations.
Oh, how silent this friendship was.
Silent as the dead.
And Jordan for the Jordanians.
Syria for the Syrians,
And Lebanon for the Lebanese.
Reconciled, forgetful, and forgotten.
The dead always are – unless they talk.
Mr. President will not have it so.

In the beginning was the People.
And the people asked for justice, and the People was without home and void; and darkness was upon the face of the exile.
And the Spirit of the People moved upon the face of the homeland.
And the People said, Let there be justice.
And the People thought it was good.
In the end was the Dead.
And the Dead spoke not for it had learnt.
And the Dead left for a new exile.
Taking the dying with it.
And the Dead asked for justice.
And was told it had died in vain.
And the Dead answered not for it had learnt.
Learnt that a man without a home:

a man without name:
a man without family: the exiled: without Palestine
is dead.
And the Dead cannot be killed.

This – so short and never written –
My teacher never said to me.
Diaspora new: stillborn the state of Palestine.
My heart bleeds for you:
Your voice, your words, your very hand.
I understand your very smile.
Your very death.
And in the beginning was the word:
And the word was Palestine.
Cast the new mind far far ahead.
To Palestine. Yes.
To Palestine. Yes.

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