Letters

Despairing over Gaza

Asked by: C., Montreal

Answered by: Poetry Clinic

Dear Poetry Clinic,

My friend is feeling into the depth of her pain and despair with the situation in Gaza. I’ve managed to pull myself out of it to trudge on in this reality and use it as a buoy to lift me up. Grief into gratitude. Fodder for activism and remembering the gift of life. I’m not sure how to support her in this moment. Poem please <3

C., Montreal

____________________________________________________________________________

Dear C.,

There is so much extraordinary poetry coming out of Palestine in this moment, some of it written in the years and decades prior, and I draw sustenance from it. The Conversation” is a poem I especially take to heart and reread every day:

The Conversation

What did you do while the children of Gaza
were dying
?

I argued with their killers.


What did you say?


I said that the innocent deserve innocence.
That the sound of laughter is better than nightmares,
and briefer. That the cost of killing
may be higher than the price of dying.


Did they listen?


Do killers ever listen? They are deafened
by their weapons’ drone and by the grate
of their own voices raging, denying.


Why were they angry?


They said that they needed to feel safe.


Safe from the children?


They said there are no children in Gaza,
only young combatants.


And the babies?


They said they are little snakes that will grow,
and it is better to kill them in their nests.


And what of the teachers? The singers? The artists?
The fathers? The mothers?


They said that all who live there are terrorists.
And as for the mothers, they said it is they
who bear the little snakes.


Did your protestations do any good?


No. I lost my breath, I lost my words, I lost my heart.
But had I not argued, I would have lost my soul.


Did any children survive?


In body, yes. In spirit, it is not sure.


The children who lived, what will become of them?


Their eyes will sear holes in the night sky.
Remember this when you look at the stars:

that it is the burning eyes of Gaza’s children
that hold your gaze.

(Gaza 2014)

It is not happy but it is heartening. This part especially is one I cling to:

Did your protestations do any good?

No. I lost my breath, I lost my words, I lost my heart.

But had I not argued, I would have lost my soul.

Poetry tends to our souls. Give this poem to your friend. Read it to them. Sing it to them. Write it on a kite. Fly the kite. Read it again and again. Sit with your friend and copy it out together line by line. Ask your friend if they have protested — in a march, to the gods, to the grass — and promise them that protesting is a way of tending to the soul.

With love,
The Poetry Clinic

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