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Date posted: January 06, 2001
By Dr. Hanan Ashrawi

Your name still wafts through

          Alleys and centuries of stone with

                    Which old Hebron—Khalil the Compassionate—

Wraps itself.

          No mercy there

Only settlers strutting

          Gloating in the knowledge that the siege,

                    Barbed wire and curfew,

                             Encircle only you

                                       And yours

For theirs is the space

Erased from the law

          A blank page stained with

                    Spilled blood and scribbles of insanity       

While yours is the youth and blood spilled—what

          Wanton abandon—seeping

                    Almost, almost unnoticed, into crevices  

Where memory almost sleeps.

 

(In Hebron, an 18-year-old woman died, caught in the crossfire)

 

You almost finished high school, with

          Your unwritten certificate, a pass—

Safe passage through a different siege, instead,

A bland testimonial of blind death groping—obscene

          Bullets, how many, penetrating virgin flesh

                    Untouched, violated now unseen,

The evil of anonymous listings, Areej, shall not

          Rob you of that which is yours: the thick

                    Long lashes, ruddy cheeks, lips full of unkissed

                             Promises (You should be happy, child, your

                                       Mother said, no need for blush, mascara

Or fake vanities). I saw you,

Face made up, wrapped in your coffin, not my

(Or your mother’s) arms.

Artificial death. Its ugliness left no mark,

                             (Your hair a glossy main—no head wounds

                                       Discerned.)

 

The neighbor’s boy was smitten. Averting your

          Eyes, Areej, you sensed his urgent

                    Need, modesty prevailed,

                    The promise postponed,

Blessed are the pure.

The soldier boy obsessed with the kill

(Have you become an etched x on the nozzle of his gun?)

 Perhaps his first?

Daughter, heir, of ancient Abraham, your Hebron

          Dowry is heavy, pregnant with history and horror.

 

What exchange of fire caught you? Trapped, you cast a

          Glance of anger, perhaps a look of contempt

                    (Disdain does not become you)

          He fired back a bullet, and you’re

                    Eighteen forever,

                             Frozen, your moment of immortality

                                       Captured, as you, caught by surprise,

Wondered, for an unrepentant second, is this all?

                             Is this it?

And he, an instant murderer, let out a breath—

                             This is it.

Unrepentant, forever branded,

His nameless victim eternally engraved

          Within what makes him what he is,

          What he will always be.

Although your eyes had never met, he wears

          The stench of death, and you—the

                    Scent of youth.

                             Indivisible.

 

Areej, the fragrance of wild flowers

          Wafting through the hills of Hebron, yours

                    Is no abstract death

And mine is no impersonal sorrow. Your

          Mother has granted me the right to share

                    Her grief—a mother too—

                             In the heart of bereaved Jerusalem.

                                       Lamentations.

No, no wedding ululations,

False courage before cowardly death,

Forging endings way before

          Time, and your breasts, have ripened.

You will not learn, Areej, the full

          Fact of your death,

                    Nor he.

But we do, and shall.

Forgive me for not letting it pass

          Unnoticed, hovering in numbers,

                    Headlines, and withering wreaths.

Forgive me for letting it

          Come to pass, unwittingly, like a sidelined

                    Chorus of fate in the face of tragic choice.

(It was not mine to make, nor yours,

          But years ago, someone signed a pact that sealed your

                    Fate, and made the choice for both).

 

Have you found your peace, Areej?

One chance after the last chance

          Found you unprepared, unadorned,

                    Your guilt—an unforgivable innocence

Immersed in hope, freedom within your grasp.

  

Is yours the ultimate iniquity of natural

Life before unnatural death? Of daring?

          Humming a tune to yourself while hanging

                    Laundry on the roof to dry? The sharp

                    Pain of a loose clothespin drawing a drop of blood?

The gaze cast over rooftops, a daydream

 Of college or the boy next door?

Too early, too late, daughter of Palestine,

          Time cast you into misplaced peace

                    Into a realm of almost

                             Dreams

And the sin of unfinished

          Chores

As magnificently mundane

As the flag that enfolded you.

                    As ritualistic as a mother’s incantation,

A prayer for the innocents: Lead us not into

                    Heroism for the pain of a child,

                             The death of a child, is anguish beyond

                                       Comprehension.

It is done. It is undone. It is not done.    

Read More ...

By: An Interview with Hanan Ashrawi
Date: 08/08/2007
By: Hanan Ashrawi
Date: 30/04/2007
By: Hanan Ashrawi
Date: 14/04/2005

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