Nathalie Handal

1969 / French / Palestinian / American

Gaza City

I sit in a gray room on a bed with a gray blanket
and wait for the muezzin to stand up.
The chants enter my window and I think of all
those men and women bowing in prayer, fear escaping
them at every stroke, a new sadness entering
their spirit as their children line up in the streets
like prisoners in a death camp.
I walk towards the broken window
my head slightly slanted and try to catch a glimpse
of the city of spirits—those killed
who pass through the narrow opening of their tombs.
My hands and the side of my right face
against the cold wall, I hide like a slut, ashamed.
I pull the collar of my light blue robe so hard
it tears, one side hanging as everyone's lives hang here.
My fingers sink deep into my flesh,
I scratch myself, three lines scar my chests,
three faiths pound in my head and I wonder
if God is buried in the rubble. Every house is a prison,
every room a dog cage. Debke is no longer part of life,
only funerals are. Gaza is pregnant
with people and no one helps with the labor.
There are no streets, no hospitals, no schools,
no airport, no air to breathe.
And here I am in a room behind a window,
helpless, useless.
In America, I would be watching television
listening to CNN saying the Israelis demand,
terrorism must stop. Here all I see is inflicted terror,
children who no longer know they are children.
Milosevic is put on trail, but what about Sharon?
I finally get dressed, stand directly in front of the window
and choke on my spit as the gun shots start,
the F-16 fighter jets pass in their daily routine.
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