House of refugees (Shaati Camp, Gaza Strip)

Rain falls on roof
it keeps us awake
asbestos and zinc
make loud noise
rain comes in too
she doesn’t stop knocking
in summer it’s too hot
in winter too cold
no spring here
no light ever bothers visit us
not even candles
can show my face in the mirror.

We get sea water in our taps
we can’t drink
in our home
I can only wash away
my silly dreams in salty water.

Oh the time
we went out at sea
we could sink on our boat
in torrents of fish
blessing our daily life
giving us faith in multitudes
when holy sea washed our land
making it also holy
when love was love
and the horizon was our friend.

I look for memories of that time
I find glimpses
the dying colours
skin silver turning brown sepia
in eyes of rotting catches
at the early morning market
once our mosque of gratitude
our shop of plenty
our breakfast venue
our little square
where smells and shouts
exchanged with shekels,
when we could swim
with waves of promise and freedom.

I’ll never ride that boat again
I’m too young to die
too young to feel the sea’s melancholy.
It belongs to my father
to my grandfather
to my older brother, even,
they took their time
to fall in love
casting nets of desire
on bluer pastures,
they washed their skin
with salty cuts
painfully pleasant
for those used to them.

Me, I’ve seen the sea
turning red
my eyes blackened
hooded by bored recruits
policing the horizon
me, I’ve seen checkpoints
floating where my father used to swim naked
I was raped with a gun
and the collaborating freezing water
I’m not in love with the sea
I’ve been betrayed by the sea
I was stripped naked
at gunpoint
by the sea.

Here’s a shell for you,
they say you hear the sea
if you eavesdrop into dead matter.
I hear gunshots.
I prefer silence.
It has no colour.

My children,
they see me
getting smaller on my chair
I keep my thoughts
to me
that’s the one thing
they can’t see
they can see my eyes
brown with tiredness
my white undershirt
turning yellow with borrowed time,
they can see my depression
in little pill boxes
and long hibernation
red crescent flaking
on medicine chest,
my trinkets of fake happiness,
my wife,
I love her,
I cry, she listens
I beat her, she listens
she shields our children
I’d love to take them to the luna park
somewhere where we can
feel afraid together again
and laugh
and hold each other
without the fear of drowning
floating in nothingness
amid cartoon fireworks
on thick white clouds
where everything happens
and nothing gets taken.

I study by candle light
generator killed our neighbours
they died in their sleep
we don’t afford a generator death.

We live by candle light
and die by candle light
it’s OK, light is light
it gives me as much as it can,
I grab as much as I can
it’s late but noisy
I won’t sleep with candle light
it’s late, I’m sleepy,
even as the drones buzz above
white weapons
running on batteries and fuel
we don’t have
to run the washing machine.

I’ll become an engineer
connect tree houses
to little bulbs
energy-saving making martyrdom redundant
energy-saving preventing
useless explosions
in houses and buses
dead tired resistance
closed spaces
once opened they become smaller
closed spaces
swallowing my brothers, my father,
closing spaces
forcing my mother to doctor us
not yet dead but expired.
I’ll become an engineer
break down ugly concrete
build new bridges out of old tanks
allow the wind to sweep away
invaders and their slaves alike
break circles of home-made history
with well-oiled machinery
you wait
just like I wait
you’ll see
just like I see.


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5 thoughts on “House of refugees (Shaati Camp, Gaza Strip)

  1. This is sadness, generations of sadness. Israel raping itself and its own youth by what it does to Palestinians

  2. Very nice Karl….and very representing of the grim reality in Gaza..i noticed the story of that little fisherman.

  3. adriana on said:

    Karl, è bellissima. E’ questo che si merita Gaza, la tua poesia..è il più bel dono.

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