"They don't have snow days in Palestine" - Poem
- friends, everyday we scan, read, forward, worry, appreciate, respect,
angry, frustrated, receive l00's of posts laden with concern for the
of humanity throughout our mother earth-- posts from unique and
spirits, impacted by war and injustice, united in love, hope, and a
for peace for our younger generations... today, the info moves me to
and shed a tear...
thank you for your dedication to peace, and for reading this forward
friend and gentlewoman in the mideast:
One of my children's teachers said one day that everytime he spoke to
daughter and one year old grandson in Ghazza, he felt a pang in his
because the only things the toddler knew and got excited about were the
tanks, the sounds of gun-shots, and the armed Israeli soldiers that
passed before the doors of his parent's home. That is all he knew. Until
visited his grandfather in Jordan at age two, all he knew were the fear,
curfews, the noise, the tanks and the gunshots, the warplanes, the
demolitions, the nightmares. He did not know that others could live in
In Southern Italy, there are areas where olive trees cover miles of
and valleys. I find these trees touching in some way. Their trunks
especially have a certain form and texture which I love. But imagine a
little, what would the Italians do if some invader decided to simply
all their olive trees, all without an exception, what would they do?
stood there to admire the view, tears filled my eyes. I thought of all
trees with which God had blessed the occupied territories, I thought of
people who had cared for the olive trees from generation to generation,
thought of the waste and the injustice. It is beyond understanding,
repair, beyond words.
The following poem brought back these memories, and more, to me,
'Hope this comes through. Share it with others -- a beautiful evocative
poem by my dear friend Lisa.
Best resources for poets and writers
2004 War Poetry Contest
Finalist Lisa Suhair Majaj
What She Said
"They don't have snow days in Palestine,
they have military invasion days."
(International Solidarity Movement activists, describing
Palestinian children's lives under Israeli
She said, go play outside,
but don't throw balls near the soldiers.
When a jeep goes past
keep your eyes on the ground.
And don't pick up stones,
not even for hopscotch. She said,
don't bother the neighbors;
their son was arrested last night.
Hang the laundry, make the beds,
scrub that graffiti off the walls
before the soldiers see it. She said,
there's no money; if your shoes
are too tight, cut the toes off.
This is what we have to eat;
we won't eat again until tomorrow.
No, we don't have any oranges,
they chopped down the orange trees.
I don't know why. Maybe the trees
were threatening the tanks. She said,
there's no water, we'll take baths next week,
insha'allah. Meanwhile, don't flush the toilet.
And don't go near the olive grove,
there are settlers there with guns.
No, I don't know how we'll harvest
the olives, and I don't know what we'll do
if they bulldoze the trees. God will provide
if He wishes, or UNRWA, but certainly not
the Americans. She said, you can't
go out today, there's a curfew.
Keep away from those windows;
can't you hear the shooting?
No, I don't know why they bulldozed
the neighbor's house. And if God knows,
He's not telling. She said,
there's no school today,
it's a military invasion.
No, I don't know when it will be over,
or if it will be over. She said,
don't think about the tanks
or the planes or the guns
or what happened to the neighbors,
Come into the hallway,
it's safer there. And turn off that news,
you're too young for this. Listen,
I'll tell you a story so you won't be scared.
Kan ya ma kan - there was or there was not -
a land called Falastine
where children played in the streets
and in the fields and in the orchards
and picked apricots and almonds
and wove jasmine garlands for their mothers.
And when planes flew overhead
they shouted happily and waved.
Kan ya ma kan. Keep your head down
This poem was a finalist in the 2004 War Poetry Contest sponsored by
Writers. Copyright is reserved to the author.
About the author
Lisa Suhair Majaj, a Palestinian American, has published poetry and
nonfiction in World Literature Today, Visions International, South
Quarterly, The Women's Review of Books, The Atlanta Review, The Poetry
Arab Women, The Space Between Our Footsteps: Poems and Paintings from
Middle East, Unrooted Childhoods and elsewhere. She has also co-edited
collections of critical essays: Going Global: The Transnational
Third World Women Writers, Etel Adnan: Critical Essays on the
Writer and Artist and Intersections: Gender, Nation and Community in
Women's Novels. She lives in Nicosia, Cyprus. Links to her writing on
Ms. Majaj's poem, "It Wasn't Poetry", was critiqued in the September
issue of Winning Writers Newsletter.