The HyperTexts

The Children of Gaza: a Song Cycle
by Eduard de Boer and Michael R. Burch
with vocals by the Palestinian soprano Dima Bawab

This page contains the lyrics to The Children of Gaza, links to performances of the songs, and a brief history of how the songs "happened."

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The Children of Gaza has been performed in Hoorn, the Hague and Amsterdam. The possibility has been discussed that the song cycle could become an opera in the future. Currently, The Children of Gaza is a cycle of nine songs that tell the story of a Palestinian boy and his mother as they live through the horrors of raids and air attacks by the Israeli military. The performance below, which includes captioned lyrics, was recorded at the Singlekerk in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on April 23, 2017. The singer is Dima Bawab, a talented Jordanian Palestinian soprano. The composer of the music, Eduard de Boer, also known as Alexander Comitas, plays piano. The lyrics are based on poems written by Michael R. Burch, which were adapted in places to the music by Burch and de Boer. The lyrics appear on-screen in the YouTube video as they are sung, and also below as independent texts.


The Children of Gaza lyrics are poems written by Michael R. Burch with adaptations made cooperatively by Burch and Eduard de Boer. After each song lyric there is a brief history of how the poem came to be written and how it was incorporated into the larger story. After the lyrics, there is a brief history of how the authors met and came to collaborate.

Please note that the original poems have been modified in places to fit the music.

I. Prologue: Where does the Butterfly go?

I'd love to sing about things of beauty,
like a butterfly, fluttering amid flowers,
but I can't,
I can't …

Where does the butterfly go
when lightning rails
when thunder howls
when hailstones scream
while winter scowls
and nights compound dark frosts with snow,
where does the butterfly go?

Where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill
beyond the power of moonlight to fill?
When the only relief's a banked fire's glow,
where does the butterfly go?

Where does the butterfly go
when mothers cry
while children die
and politicians lie, politicians lie?
When the darkness of grief blots out all that we know:
when love and life are running low,
where does the butterfly go?

And how shall the spirit take wing
when life is harsh, too harsh to face,
and hope is flown without a trace?
When the light of life runs low,
where does the butterfly go,
where does the butterfly go?

[NOTE: The first stanza was added at the request of Eduard de Boer. The fourth stanza contains a number of revisions. The rest of the poem is very close to the original, which I wrote for a young woman who committed suicide. I had dated her briefly, and could tell that she was very sad. She later dated a friend of mine, and they were engaged to be married at the time of her death. Soon thereafter the question "Where does the butterfly go?" came to me and became a poem. I later dedicated the poem to the mothers and children of the Palestinian Nakba. The poem has been published by Tucumcari Literary Review, Romantics Quarterly, Poetry Life & Times, Victorian Violet Press (where it was nominated for a “Best of the Net”), The Contributor (a Nashville homeless newspaper, as “For a Homeless Child, with Butterflies”), and by the Pakistani journal Siasat (as “For a Palestinian Child, with Butterflies”). The poem has also "gone viral" and is even being taught in schools.―MRB]

II. The Raid

When the soldiers came to our house,
I was quiet, quiet as a mouse…
But when they beat down our door with a battering ram,
and I heard their machine guns go "Blam! Blam! Blam!"
I ran! I ran! I ran!

First I ran to the cupboard and crept inside;
then I fled to my bed and crawled under, to hide.
I could hear my mother shushing my sister…
How I hoped and prayed that the bullets missed her!
My sister! My sister! My sister!
Then I ran next door, to my uncle's house,
still quiet, quiet as a mouse...
Young as I am, I did understand
that they had come to take our land!
Our land! Our land! Our land!
They've come to take our land!

They shot my father, they shot my mother,
they shot my dear sister, and my big brother!
They shot down my hopes, they shot down my dreams!
I still hear their screams!
Their screams! Their screams!

Now I am here: small, and sad, and still ...
no mother, no father, no family, no will.
They took everything I ever had.
Now how can I live, with no mom and no dad?
How can I live, with no mom and no dad?
How can I live? How can I live?

[NOTE: This poem was written specifically for the song cycle, with considerable input from Ed. I think repetitions were his idea, for instance.―MRB]

III. For God’s Sake, I'm only a Child

For God’s sake, ah, for God's sake, I’m only a child —
and all you’ve allowed me to learn
are these tears scalding my cheeks,
this ache in my gut at the sight
of so many corpses, so much horrifying blood!

For God’s sake, I’m only a child —
you talk about your need for “security,”
but what about my right to play
in streets not piled with dead bodies
still smoking with white phosphorous!

Ah, for God’s sake, I’m only a child —
for me there's no beauty in the world
and peace has become an impossible dream;
destruction is all I know
because of your deceptions.

For God’s sake, I’m only a child —
fear and terror surround me
stealing my breath as I lie
shaking like a windblown leaf.
For God’s sake, for God's sake, I'm only a child,
I'm only a child, I'm only a child.

[NOTE: This free verse poem was also written specifically for the song cycle, once again with considerable input from Ed.―MRB]

IV. King of the World

If I were King of the World, I would make
every child free, for my people’s sake.
And once I had freed them, they’d all run and scream
straight to my palace, for free ice cream!
[Directly to the audience, spoken:]
Why are you laughing? Can’t a young king dream?

If I were King of the World, I would banish
hatred and war, and make mean men vanish.
Then, in their place, I’d bring in a circus
with lions and tigers (but they’d never hurt us!)

If I were King of the World, I would teach
the preachers to always do as they preach;
and so they could practice being of good cheer,
we’d have Christmas —and sweets—each day of the year!
[Directly to the audience, spoken:]
Why are you laughing? Some dreams do appear!

If I were King of the World, I would send
my couns'lors of peace to the wide world’s end ...

[spoken:] But all this hard dreaming is making me thirsty!
I proclaim lemonade; please
[spoken] bring it in a hurry!

If I were King of the World, I would fire
racists and bigots, with their message so dire.
And we wouldn’t build walls, to shut people out.
I would build amusement parks, have no doubt!

If I were King of the World, I would make
every child blessed, for my people’s sake,
and every child safe, and every child free,
and every child happy, especially me!
[Directly to the audience:]
[spoken] Why are you laughing? Appoint me and see!

[NOTE: This poem was inspired by a poem by a young Palestinian boy whom I had published many years ago. While the poem above was "written from scratch" for the song cycle, the idea of a Palestinian boy changing the world to be more fair did originate with a very young Palestinian writer. Unfortunately, I don't know his name because the teacher I worked with protected her students by not revealing their names. I remember Ed saying that the audience would need a brief respite because of the dark theme, and the little boy's "I Have a Dream" imagining helped me come up with the resulting poem.―MRB]

V. Mother’s Smile

There never was a fonder smile
than mother's smile, no softer touch
than mother's touch. So sleep awhile
and know she loves you more than "much".

So more than "much", much more than "all".
Though tender words, these do not speak
of love at all, nor how we fall
and mother's there, nor how we reach
from nightmares in the ticking night
and she is there to hold us tight.

There never was a stronger back
than father's back, that held our weight
and lifted us, when we were small,
and bore us till we reached the gate,
then held our hands that first bright mile
till we could run, and did, and flew.
But, oh, a mother's tender smile
will leap and follow after you ...

[NOTE: This poem remains exactly as I wrote it originally, I believe. I had long wondered: "Why are there no great poems written by great poets to their mothers?" A real mystery! While I can't claim to be a great poet or to have written a great poem, at least I did write a poem for my mother! But I will dedicate it to all mothers everywhere. "Mother’s Smile" won the UK Penguin Books Valentine’s Day Contest many years ago. The poem has been published by TALESetc, Care2Care, Famous Poets and Poems, Poems for Big Kids (Anthology) and Penguin Books. It has also been translated in Arabic by the Palestinian poet Iqbal Tamimi.―MRB]

VI. In the Shelter

Hush my darling, please don’t cry.

The bombs will stop dropping, by and by.
Hush, I'll sing you a lullaby…

Mama, I know that I’m safe in your arms.
Your sweet love protects me from all harms,
but still I fear the sirens’ alarms!

Hush now my darling, don’t say a word.
My love will protect you, whatever you heard.
Hush now…

But what about pappa, you loved him too.

My love will protect you.
My love will protect you!

I know that you love me, but pappa is gone!

Your pappa’s in heaven, where nothing goes wrong.
Come, rest at my breast and I’ll sing you a song.

But pappa was strong, and now he’s not here.

He’s where he must be, and yet ever-near.
Now we both must be strong; there's nothing to fear.

The bombs are still falling! Will this night never end?

The deep darkness hides us; the night is our friend.
Hush, I'll sing you a lullaby.

Yes, mama, I'm sure you are right.
We will be safe under cover of night.
[spoken] But what is that sound? [screamed] Mama! I am fri(ghtened)….!

[NOTE: This poem was written specifically for the song cycle, with considerable input from Ed. I believe the original inspiration was a lullaby.―MRB]

VII. Frail Envelope of Flesh

Frail envelope of flesh,
lying on the surgeon's table
with anguished eyes
like your mother's eyes
and a heartbeat weak, unstable…

Frail crucible of dust,
brief flower come to this–
your tiny hand
in your mother's hand
for a last bewildered kiss…

Brief mayfly of a child,
to live five artless years…
Now your mother's lips
seal up your lips
from the Deluge of her tears…

[NOTE: I believe this poem is just one word different from the original, which had "lying cold" in line two. The poem has a very unusual genesis, because I found the phrase "Frail envelope of flesh!" in a superhero comic book. That was my "initiation" as a poet into the power of words. I was probably around age ten at the time. Years later the phrase was still "stuck" in my mind, and I decided to use it in a poem. The poem has been published by The Lyric and Poetry Life & Times, and has also "gone viral" to some degree, appearing in a slideshow and on around 35 web pages.―MRB]

VIII. Among the Angels

There is peace where I am now,
I reside in a heavenly land
that rests safe in the palm
of a loving Being’s hand;
where the butterfly finds shelter
and the white dove glides to rest
in the bright and shining sands
of those shores all men call Blessed.

My darling, how I long to touch your face,
to see your smile,
to hear your laughter’s grace.
Great Allah, hear my plea.
Return my child to me.

My darling mother, here beyond the stars
where I now live,
I see and feel your tears,
but here is peace and joy, and no more pain.
Here is where I will remain.

My darling, do not leave me here alone!
Come back to me!
Why did you turn to stone?
Great Allah, hear my plea.
Please send my child back to me...

Dear mother, to your wonderful love I bow.
But I can't return...
I am among the Angels now.
Do not worry about me.
Here is where I long to be.

My darling, it is as if I hear your voice
consoling me.
Oh, can this be your choice?
Great Allah, hear my plea.
Impart wisdom to me.

Dear mother, I was born of your great love,
a gentle spirit...
I died a slaughtered dove,
that I might bring this message from the stars:
it is time to end earth’s wars.

Remember—in both Bible and Koran
how many times each precious word is used—
“Mercy. Compassion. Justice.” Let each man,
each woman live by the Law
that rules both below and above:
reject all hate and embrace Love.

[NOTE: This poem was written specifically for the song cycle, with considerable input from Ed. I believe the first line was influenced by a poem I wrote as a teenager after watching a TV show about Woodstock. The poem began "There is peace where I am going." This poem was also influenced by my studies of near-death experiences, or NDEs. Many people who have NDEs speak of entering a place that sounds like heaven, and they usually don't want to return to life on earth!―MRB]

IX. Epilogue. I have a dream

I have a dream...
that one day all the world
will see me as I am:
a small child, lonely and afraid,
a small child, lonely and afraid.

Look at me... I am flesh...
I laugh, I bleed, I cry.
Look at me; I dare you
to look me in the eye
and tell me and my mother
how I deserve to die.

I only ask to live
in a world where things are fair;
I only ask for love
in a world where people share,
I only ask for love
in a world where people share.

Oh, I have a dream...
that one day all the world
will see me as I am:
a small child, lonely and afraid,
a small child, lonely and afraid.

[NOTE: The first stanza of this poem was taken from a poem that I wrote for THT's Gaza poetry page (although I credited the poem to "The Child Poets of Gaza" because I thought readers would be more receptive to such a poem written by a child). The rest of the poem was written specifically for the song cycle, with considerable input from Ed. The original poem was influenced by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech.―MRB]

A Brief History: How The Children of Gaza Happened

In 1976, Eduard de Boer spent a summer holiday in Israel, at age 19. He worked at a Kibbutz for three weeks, then went on a week-long trip through the countryside. On his travels, he met a number of friendly, very gracious Palestinians ... so gracious, in fact, that he wrote, "I had never encountered such hospitality before" despite the fact that most Palestinians are far from rich. Later, as de Boer became aware of the plight of the Palestinians and read poems on the subject suggested by a friend, the idea "to do something" began to take shape in his mind. By January 2016, that idea had crystalized into a plan to compose a song cycle about Palestinian children living in the Gaza Strip.

In 1976, Michael R. Burch was 18 years old and just graduating from high school. He knew nothing about the "real reality" of Palestinians, having a very "conventional" American viewpoint that Israel was always in the right and the Palestinians always in the wrong. Later in life, Burch came to change that viewpoint, ironically, while working with Jewish Holocaust survivors. As they worked together to translate the Holocaust poems of Polish and Yiddish-speaking Jews into English, the subject of Israel and the Palestinians would sometimes come up. When Burch asked his Jewish friends about Israel's treatment of Palestinians, they would immediately become defensive and angry. Burch found this disturbing and decided to do some independent research. Within a few minutes of launching his studies, he says, he was literally sick to his stomach and in deep despair. While he had been saying "Never again!" to any Holocaust, his country and family religion, Christianity, had been actively supporting a new Holocaust. The Hebrew word Holocaust means "catastrophe." The Arabic word Nakba also means "catastrophe." His understanding of the Holocaust and its root causes, caused Burch to see the two as manifestations of the same evils: racism, tribalism and the denial of equality and justice by a stronger people to a much weaker people. Burch says that he only began to recover emotionally when he chose to become a peace activist and thus part of the solution rather than a contributor to the horror. He went on to publish Nakba poems side-by-side with Holocaust poems, and to author a peace plan for Israel/Palestine called the "Burch-Elberry Peace Initiative." By 2016 he had been a very active and vocal peace activist for a decade.

In January 2016, de Boer found poems published by Palestinian children on Burch's literary website, They discussed using the children's poems, but there was a seemingly insurmountable complication: the identities of the child poets had been protected by their teacher―quite judiciously―because Israel had a bad habit of punishing the families of children who spoke out, to the extent of sometimes destroying their houses! The teacher herself had been forced to leave Gaza. So it seemed impossible to proceed. But Burch had written some of the poems from a child's perspective, calling himself "the Child Poets of Gaza." So he proposed the idea of using poems he had written, and writing other poems to de Boer's specifications.

Suddenly, things seemed to quite mysteriously "snap into place." A dear friend of de Boer left him a sum of money in his will. Other projects de Boer would have done first were put on hold. Suddenly, de Boer had the partner, the money and the time to more forward with his project. For the next 2 1/2 months, de Boer and Burch worked together in "near perfect harmony" to make the dream a reality. When the music and lyrics were ready, the last step was to find the right person to sing the songs. When the Palestinian soprano Dima Bawab agreed to perform the songs, all the pieces had fallen into place.

But of course things working out splendidly for the song cycle does not mean that things are working out splendidly for Palestinians. The purpose of the poetry and the music is to galvanize audiences into compassionate action. JFK once said, "Ich bin ein Berliner!" Surely we can say, "We are all Palestinians!" and work to help the Children of Gaza just as we would want someone to help our own children in a similar plight.

The Child Poets of Gaza

The rest of this page consists of poems written by various poets, some of them children, that have been published by The HyperTexts over the years ...

Our prayers are with the children of Gaza who suffered and died during Israel's Operation "Cast Lead" and Operation "Pillar of Fire" (also known euphemistically as "Pillar of Clouds" and "Pillar of Defense"). I was communicating with a young Gazan girl during the early stages of Operation "Pillar of Fire" and she became so terrified of the thunderous explosions that she was unable to speak. Israel's "Pillar of Fire" left Gaza in flames, and many babies and children charred corpses. Now Israel's latest offensive, dubbed Operation "Protective Edge" or "Defensive Edge," threatens Gaza with more collective punishment, carnage, suffering and death. More than half of Gaza's 1.8 million residents are children, so military operations there are bound to end in the deaths of innocents.

A very moving poem by Rafah-born Palestinian poet Khaled Juma:

Oh rascal children of Gaza.
You who constantly disturbed me with your screams under my window.
You who filled every morning with rush and chaos.
You who broke my vase and stole the lonely flower on my balcony.
Come back, and scream as you want and break all the vases.
Steal all the flowers.
Come back…
Just come back…
―Khaled Juma

I, too, have a dream ...
that one day Jews and Christians
will see me as I am:
a small child, lonely and afraid,
staring down the barrels of their big bazookas,
knowing I did nothing
to deserve their enmity.
―The Child Poets of Gaza

Christians may want to consider the ethical questions What does the Bible say? What would Jesus do? Would Jesus Christ have endorsed racism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing when the victims include millions of women and children in Gaza, the Occupied Territories and refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and other Middle Eastern nations?

Epitaph for a Child of Gaza
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

by Kholoud Saeed, a 16-year-old Gazan poet

It was a life or a death
It was a part or a link
It was darkness or a glint
But ... what's the most important thing?!
He was a man or a child
He was brave or just ready to fight
He was a black bullet or the sun of the twilight
So ... what we are seeking to hide?!
It was the beginning or the end
It was killing or a hint
It was assistance or a killer fist
So ... why we are on the terrorist list?!
It was a light or a flame
It was a dream or a nightmare
It was peace or fear
What if we really don't care?!

Frail Envelope of Flesh
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of Gaza

Frail envelope of flesh,
lying cold on the surgeon’s table
with anguished eyes
like your mother’s eyes
and a heartbeat weak, unstable ...

Frail crucible of dust,
brief flower come to this—
your tiny hand
in your mother’s hand
for a last bewildered kiss ...

Brief mayfly of a child,
to live two artless years!
Now your mother’s lips
seal up your lips
from the Deluge of her tears ...

If you are unfamiliar with the real history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, or have been told that Israel is "only defending itself," please read Albert Einstein's 1948 letter to the New York Times, then click your browser's "back" button to return to this page. If you want to understand how the theft of Palestinian land relates to Israel's military offensives against Gaza, please click here Amud Annan "Pillar of Fire." If you want to hear the opinion of the former U.S. president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who negotiated peace talks between Israel and Palestinians, please click here Jimmy Carter: "Israeli policy is to confiscate Palestinian territory." You may also want to read and consider Israeli Prime Ministers who were Terrorists and Does Israel Really Want Peace?

I'm Your Child
by Israa Thiab

I want to live, I want to love
If you let me dear sir
I want to play, I want to learn
Look at me, I know you care

Look at me... For I'm flesh as much as you are
for I have a heart... I laugh... I cry
Look at me dear sir, look into my eyes I dare you
and tell me how I deserve to die

I'm not a chess piece, I'm a child
I'm not a number, I'm a child
I'm not a lab rat, I'm a child
Look at me dear sir ... I'm YOUR child

Israa Thiab is a Palestinian refugee by birth, holding Jordanian nationality. She was born to a political activist father, and is adamant that she will continue to fight her father's fight against injustice and oppression not only for Palestinians but on a global level.

by Olfa Drid

barren land,
fruitless trees,
wingless birds,
eclipsed sun,
miniscule corpses,
entombed hopes,
decapitated present,
castrated future
death ghost
death's specter
global silence…

The oppressed can but pursue suitable tracks
Learning to heed the lessons of awesome war
But will the mighty listen to reason’s voice
That justice will accomplish the peace of Rome?
Or will conscience’s dictates be inexorably ignored
As war’s clouds hover over culture’s great cradle?
And yet we do not harbor the odium of hatred
But pray that peace can still be humanity’s finest hour . . .
―Khaled Nusseibeh

Distant light
by Walid Khazindar, a poet born in Gaza City
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Bitterly cold,
winter clings to the naked trees.
If only you would free
the bright sparrows
from the tips of your fingers
and release a smile—that shy, tentative smile—
from the imprisoned anguish I see.
Sing! Can we not sing
as if we were warm, hand-in-hand,
shielded by shade from a glaring sun?
Can you not always remain this way,
stoking the fire, more beautiful than necessary, and silent?
Darkness increases; we must remain vigilant
and this distant light is our only consolation—
this imperiled flame, which from the beginning
has been flickering,
in danger of going out.
Come to me, closer and closer.
I don't want to be able to tell my hand from yours.
And let's stay awake, lest the snow smother us.

Walid Khazindar was born in 1950 in Gaza City. He is considered one of the best Palestinian poets; his poetry has been said to be "characterized by metaphoric originality and a novel thematic approach unprecedented in Arabic poetry." He was awarded the first Palestine Prize for Poetry in 1997.

My nightmare ...

I had a dream of Jesus!
Mama, his eyes were so kind!
But behind him I saw a billion Christians
hissing "You're nothing!," so blind.
―The Child Poets of Gaza

Poems by Michael R. Burch translated into Arabic by the Palestinian poet Iqbal Tamimi

مقتطفات من أشعار مايكل آر برتش محرر مجلة الهايبر تيكستس للشعر ترجمتها ل لعربية الشاعرة الفلسط ينية إقبال التميمي

Autumn Conundrum

لغز ال خريف
ليس الأمر أن كل ورقة يجب أن تقع قي نهاية المطاف
إنه مجرد أننا لن نستطيع أبدا ً التقاطها جميعاً

It's not that every leaf must finally fall,
it's just that we can never catch them all.

Piercing the Shell

اخترا ق القشرة
لو خلعنا جميع واقيات ال حرب
ربما سنكتشف سبب وجود ال قلب

If we strip away all the accouterments of war,
perhaps we'll discover what the heart is for.

Epitaph for a Palestine child

مرثية ل طفل فلسطيني
عشت قدر استطاعتي، وبعد ها متّ
إحذر أين تخطّـو: فالقب ر واسع

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

For a Child of Gaza, with Butterflies
by Michael R. Burch

Where does the butterfly go
when lightning rails
when thunder howls
when hailstones scream
while winter scowls
and nights compound dark frosts with snow?
Where does the butterfly go?

Where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill
beyond the capacity of moonlight to fill?
When the only relief's a banked fire's glow,
where does the butterfly go?

And where shall the spirit flee
when life is harsh, too harsh to face,
and hope is lost without a trace?
Oh, when the light of life runs low,
where does the butterfly go?

Ahmad Al-Za’tar
by Mahmoud Darwish
translated by Tania Nasir

For two hands, of stone and of thyme
I dedicate this song. For Ahmad, forgotten between two butterflies
The clouds are gone and have left me homeless, and
The mountains have flung their mantles and concealed me
From the oozing old wound to the contours of the land I descend, and
The year marked the separation of the sea from the cities of ash, and
I was alone
Again alone
O alone? And Ahmad
Between two bullets was the exile of the sea
A camp grows and gives birth to fighters and to thyme
And an arm becomes strong in forgetfulness
Memory comes from trains that have left and
Platforms that are empty of welcome and of jasmine
In cars, in the landscape of the sea, in the intimate nights of prison cells
In quick liaisons and in the search for truth was
The discovery of self
In every thing, Ahmad found his opposite
For twenty years he was asking
For twenty years he was wandering
For twenty years, and for moments only, his mother gave him birth
In a vessel of banana leaves
And departed
He seeks an identity and is struck by the volcano
The clouds are gone and have left me homeless, and
The mountains have flung their mantles and concealed me
I am Ahmad the Arab, he said
I am the bullets, the oranges and the memory

The Deluge and the Tree
by Fadwa Tuqan

When the hurricane swirled and spread its deluge
of dark evil
onto the good green land
'they' gloated. The western skies
reverberated with joyous accounts:
"The Tree has fallen !
The great trunk is smashed! The hurricane leaves no life in the Tree!"

Had the Tree really fallen?
Never! Not with our red streams flowing forever,
not while the wine of our thorn limbs
fed the thirsty roots,
Arab roots alive
tunneling deep, deep, into the land!

When the Tree rises up, the branches
shall flourish green and fresh in the sun
the laughter of the Tree shall leaf
beneath the sun
and birds shall return
Undoubtedly, the birds shall return.
The birds shall return.

Look at me
by Nahida Izzat

Look at me
I would love to write poetry about love,
Paint rainbows and butterflies,
Smell the scent of pink rose buds,
And dance;
Dance with the melody of jubilant bluebirds

I would love to close my eyes and see children smiling
No guns pointing at their heads
Tell them stories of lily-like fairies in far-away lands
Not of bullets shrieking . . . of missiles exploding
How can I?

There is a dagger in my heart
I am hurting
I bleed,
I cringe
I cry

I am being slaughtered
Under your watchful eyes
I am cold . . . cold . . . cold
I cringe
I cry

Humanity, where are you?
Why do you turn your face away?
Why do you keep looking the other way?
I am here
In Gaza's alleyways
Humanity, where are you?
Look at me
See me

I am here
In Gaza's alleyways
I cringe
I cry

Enough turning the other way !
Turning a deaf ear
Turning a blind eye
While I,
and oh ! my poor children

Armed with a prayer
by Iqbal Tamimi

Once upon a crime,
the night
hijacked the face of my homeland.
The next day,
the spring was pronounced dead.
My blood
lost its way rivuletting through sand.
I was not courageous enough
to declare
the theft of my skin;
It was stretched by loathsome hands
to create a new face for an old drum.
There . . .
sat my anxiety
on the banks of pain,
washing my punctured voice,
asking me
how would I . . .
fish for my poem’s crumbs in a mine field?
What could I say?
For . . .
I had lost the dawn in the market,
my mouth was stuffed
with the sweat of my exile,
nothing of me remained
my few half-living fingers
exhuming the guts of lines,
a nose . . .
striving hard to find its way home,
and a pair of eyes,
that looked but could not see
of the absent loved ones,
who used to be there for me.
My pulse was swinging,
documenting my name,
alongside others hanging
on the verge of plight.
My loaf was naked.
I was armed only with a prayer.
A child beneath the rubble
Screamed, calling my name
Mama . . . Please . . .
tell them not to execute my kite.

Suffer the Little Children
by Nakba

I saw the carnage . . . saw girls' dreaming heads
blown to red atoms, and their dreams with them . . .

saw babies liquefied in burning beds
as, horrified, I heard their murderers’ phlegm . . .

I saw my mother stitch my shroud’s black hem,
for in that moment I was one of them . . .

I saw our Father’s eyes grow hard and bleak
to see frail roses severed at the stem . . .

How could I fail to speak?

I Pray Tonight
by Michael R. Burch

for the children of Gaza
and their mothers

I pray tonight
the starry Light
surround you.

I pray
by day
that, come what may,
no dark thing confound you.

I pray ere tomorrow
an end to your sorrow.
May angels' white chorales
sing, and astound you.

by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of Gaza

Something inescapable is lost—
lost like a pale vapor curling up into shafts of moonlight,
vanishing in a gust of wind toward an expanse of stars
immeasurable and void.

Something uncapturable is gone—
gone with the spent leaves and illuminations of autumn,
scattered into a haze with the faint rustle of parched grass
and remembrance.

Something unforgettable is past—
blown from a glimmer into nothingness, or less,
and finality has swept into a corner where it lies
in dust and cobwebs and silence.

Mother’s Smile
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers of Gaza
and their children

There never was a fonder smile
than mother’s smile, no softer touch
than mother’s touch. So sleep awhile
and know she loves you more than “much.”

So more than “much,” much more than “all.”
Though tender words, these do not speak
of love at all, nor how we fall
and mother’s there, nor how we reach
from nightmares in the ticking night
and she is there to hold us tight.

There never was a stronger back
than father’s back, that held our weight
and lifted us, when we were small,
and bore us till we reached the gate,
then held our hands that first bright mile
till we could run, and did, and flew.
But, oh, a mother’s tender smile
will leap and follow after you!

Labor Pains
by Fadwa Tuqan

The wind blows the pollen in the night
through ruins of fields and homes.
Earth shivers with love,
with the pain of giving birth,
but the conqueror wants us to believe
stories of submission and surrender.

O Arab Aurora!
Tell the usurper of our land
that childbirth is a force unknown to him,
the pain of a mother’s body,
that the scarred land
inaugurates life
at the moment of dawn
when the rose of blood
blooms on the wound.

Hadeel's Song
by Hanan Ashrawi

Some words are hard to pronounce—
He-li-cop-ter is most vexing
                    (A-pa-che or Co-bra is impossible)
But how it can stand still in the sky
I cannot understand—
          What holds it up
                    What bears its weight
(Not clouds, I know)
It sends a flashing light—so smooth—
          It makes a deafening sound
                    The house shakes
                             (There are holes in the wall by my bed)
And I have a hard time sleeping
(I felt ashamed when I wet my bed, but no one scolded me).

Plane—a word much easier to say—
          It flies, tayyara,
My mother told me
A word must have a meaning
A name must have a meaning
Like mine,
        (Hadeel, the cooing of the dove)
Tanks, though, make a different sound
          They shudder when they shoot
Dabbabeh is a heavy word
          As heavy as its meaning.

Hadeel—the dove—she coos
          Tayyara—she flies
                    Dabbabeh—she crawls
My Mother—she cries
          And cries and cries
My Brother—Rami—he lies
                    And lies and lies, his eyes
Hit by a bullet in the head
          (bullet is a female lead—rasasa—she kills,
                    my pencil is a male lead—rasas—he writes)
What’s the difference between a shell and a bullet?
(What’s five-hundred-milli-meter-
        Or eight-hundred-milli-meter-shell?)
Numbers are more vexing than words—
          I count to ten, then ten-and-one, ten-and-two
                    But what happens after ten-and-ten,
How should I know?
Rami, my brother, was one
          Of hundreds killed—
They say thousands are hurt,
But which is more
          A hundred or a thousand (miyyeh or alf)
                    I cannot tell—
                             So big—so large—so huge—
Too many, too much.

Palestine—Falasteen—I’m used to,
          It’s not so hard to say,
It means we’re here—to stay—
          Even though the place is hard
                    On kids and mothers too
For soldiers shoot
          And airplanes shell
                    And tanks boom
                             And tear gas makes you cry
(Though I don’t think it’s tear gas that makes my mother cry)
I’d better go and hug her
          Sit in her lap a while
                    Touch her face (my fingers wet)
                             Look in her eyes
Until I see myself again
          A girl within her mother’s sight.

If words have meaning, Mama,
          What is Is-ra-el?
What does a word mean
        if it is mixed
                  with another—
If all soldiers, tanks, planes and guns are
                    What are they doing here
In a place I know
          In a word I know—(Palestine)
                    In a life that I no longer know?

Excerpts from Under Siege
by Mahmoud Darwish
translated by Marjolijn De Jager

Here on the slopes of hills, facing the dusk and the cannon of time
Close to the gardens of broken shadows,
We do what prisoners do,
And what the jobless do:
We cultivate hope.

A country preparing for dawn. We grow less intelligent
For we closely watch the hour of victory:
No night in our night lit up by the shelling
Our enemies are watchful and light the light for us
In the darkness of cellars.

Here there is no "I".
Here Adam remembers the dust of his clay.

You who stand in the doorway, come in,
Drink Arabic coffee with us
And you will sense that you are men like us
You who stand in the doorways of houses
Come out of our morningtimes,
We shall feel reassured to be
Men like you!

When the planes disappear, the white, white doves
Fly off and wash the cheeks of heaven
With unbound wings taking radiance back again, taking possession
Of the ether and of play. Higher, higher still, the white, white doves
Fly off. Ah, if only the sky
Were real [a man passing between two bombs said to me].

Cypresses behind the soldiers, minarets protecting
The sky from collapse. Behind the hedge of steel
Soldiers piss—under the watchful eye of a tank—
And the autumnal day ends its golden wandering in
A street as wide as a church after Sunday mass . . .

[To a killer] If you had contemplated the victim’s face
And thought it through, you would have remembered your mother in the
Gas chamber, you would have been freed from the reason for the rifle
And you would have changed your mind: this is not the way
to find one’s identity again.

The siege is a waiting period
Waiting on the tilted ladder in the middle of the storm.

Alone, we are alone as far down as the sediment
Were it not for the visits of the rainbows.

We have brothers behind this expanse.
Excellent brothers. They love us. They watch us and weep.
Then, in secret, they tell each other:
"Ah! if this siege had been declared . . . " They do not finish their sentence:
"Don’t abandon us, don’t leave us."

Our losses: between two and eight martyrs each day.
And ten wounded.
And twenty homes.
And fifty olive trees . . .
Added to this the structural flaw that
Will arrive at the poem, the play, and the unfinished canvas.

Oh watchmen! Are you not weary
Of lying in wait for the light in our salt
And of the incandescence of the rose in our wound
Are you not weary, oh watchmen? ...

Greetings to the one who shares my glass with me
In the denseness of a night outflanking the two spaces:
Greetings to my apparition.

My friends are always preparing a farewell feast for me,
A soothing grave in the shade of oak trees
A marble epitaph of time
And always I anticipate them at the funeral:
Who then has died . . . who?

We should not justify suicide bombers.
We are against the suicide bombings,
but we must understand what drives these young people to such actions.
They want to liberate themselves from such a dark life.
It is not ideological, it is despair . . .
We have to understand—not justify—what gives rise to this tragedy.
It's not because they're looking for beautiful virgins in heaven, as Orientalists portray it.
Palestinian people are in love with life.
If we give them hope—a political solution—they'll stop killing themselves.
―Mahmoud Darwish

What I learned from Elie Wiesel and other Jewish Holocaust Survivors is the personal account of how Mike Burch learned more from some of the Jewish Holocaust survivors he worked with, than they seemingly wanted him to know.

Hidden dimensions
by Nahida Izzat

My first son Hassan
Was born on April the 9th

You might think
So what … why are you saying it
With such a gloomy tune
What is wrong with the 9th of April?

You have to be a Palestinian
To understand
For on the 9th of April 1948
The massacre of Deir Yassin
Took place
Where every man women and child
Of that peaceful farming village
Was killed in cold blood
No one survived
Except those
Who pretended to be dead

As we celebrate the birth of a newborn
With joy
We mourn and grieve
Lost loved ones

In our midst
Nothing becomes insular
Nothing is disjointed
No single colours

The fabric of our lives
Makes the most amazing tapestry

If you hold it backwards
Looking at the wrong side
You’ll see a mirror image
Of shades of a blurred picture
With loops . . . knots and fraying thread
If you turn it over
It looks much neater
But still you can’t actually see
The full picture
Only colours and shadows

But hey . . . take a little time
And walk backwards
Further back
Look at the tapestry
From a distance

You will be amazed
At its outstanding beauty
All these murky shades
That didn’t make sense to you
Even disturbed you
When you were near

From afar
These dark shadows
Are precisely what makes this piece
So unique
So spectacular

These unfathomable hues
Are what give our life portrait
Its depth
And hidden dimensions

Since that day of 1948
Many . . . many babies were born
On April the 9th

Our joys are always stained
With hints of sorrow

Our sadness is always coloured
With hues of hope

Without which
The tapestry of our lives
Will never be complete
Won’t be as rich
Or as beautiful

Don’t waste much time
Staring at the wrong side with fury
Turn it over . . .walk further back . . . and feel the glory

Dead Life
by Olfa Philo

Hey you, hurrying off to the doctor in case of flu or toothache,
what if you suffered like the people of Gaza from a chronic heartache?

Hey you, your kids have a lot of toys to play with and change their moods,
but kids like them in Gaza are being robbed of their innocent moments of childhood!

Hey you, your kids are lucky enjoying food, shelter and comfy beds,
but parents in Gaza are traumatized by their kids' exploded stomachs and heads!

Hey you, you're showing off your new brand-name clothes to your peers?
For their lifelong 'red uniforms', kids of Gaza are drenched in tears!

Hey you, you're complaining every now and then about a lack of fun?
What if your ears were deafened by the noise of rockets and guns!

Hey you, you shout and swear if your kids fall or bleed somewhere?
People of Gaza have been bleeding in silence for decades, as if No one does care!

Hey you, you feel humiliated if you don't celebrate your birthday every year with friends, candles and a cake?
People of Gaza have only wakes and are burning candles daily for their land's sake!

Hey you, you listen to music to calm down and release your stress?
People of Gaza have no other melody but the melancholic lyric of death!

Hey you, you're enraged because your lover didn't call you on the phone?
People of Gaza can only express their displeasure with a stone!

Hey you, you're reluctant to see horrible pictures of atrocities and scattered body parts?
Will you survive a minute if your eyes witness your family members literally falling apart?

Hey you, you're enjoying beer, marijuana and secret dating on Twitter and Facebook?
Did you also swallow all the anesthetizing pills and poisoned hooks?

Hey you, you're hypnotized by the wide range of drama, thriller, soccer and porn TV channels?
Why don't you become a pioneer in launching soul-uplifting, intelligence-boosting and peace-promoting panels?

Hey you, do you feel frustrated when you miss a party or a famous star's show?
What if you lived a life where the sun never rises to melt the years of snow?

Hey you over there, proud of having two feet not four,
What makes you feel superior,
if your brain is (b)locked,
your tongue is tied and
your heart is congealed to the core?

Other performances of The Children of Gaza have taken place at the Korzo Theater in the Hague, at the Vondelkerk in Amsterdam, and at the Oosterkerk in Hoorn.

Related pages: Nakba Poems, Gaza Poems, Holocaust Poems, Darfur Poems, Haiti Poems, Hiroshima Poems, 9-11 Poems, Trail of Tears Poems, Sandy Hook Poems, Aurora Poetry, Columbine Poems

The HyperTexts