We have been meditating on our need for and capacity for compassion. In times of rupture, it is good to go to poets for the truth.  I highly recommend the recent article in The New Yorker* by Palestinian poet/author and former Harvard librarian-in-residence Mosab abu Toha, who was born and grew up in Gaza. He and his family are currently sheltering in a refugee camp north of the city.

Award-winning Palestinian author Mosab Abu Toha. Photo from his debut work, Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear: Poems from Gaza.

On the Facebook page where he chronicles the life of Gaza under siege–memorial photos of family members, neighbors, and friends lost to the Israeli bombardment, scenes of ordinary people navigating the unthinkable, pleas for the world community to take action–Mosab posts excerpts of his poems. With his permission, I offer a few here.

The Wounds

The houses were not Hamas.
The kids were not Hamas.
Their clothes and toys were not Hamas.
The neighborhood was not Hamas.
The air was not Hamas.
Our ears were not Hamas.
Our eyes were not Hamas.
The one who ordered the killing,
the one who pressed the button
thought only of Hamas.**

Palestine Trauma Centre (UK) presents Mosab Abu Toha reading three of his poems of life in Gaza.

Shrapnel Looking for Laughter

The house has been bombed. Everyone dead:
The kids, the parents, the toys, the actors on TV,
characters in novels, personas in poetry collections,
the I, the he and the she. No pronouns left. Not even
for kids when they learn parts of speech
next year. Shrapnel flies in the dark,
looks for the family’s peals of
laughter hiding behind piles of disfigured
walls and bleeding picture frames.**


We Are Looking for Palestine

We stuff our suitcases with pictures and memories.
They feel very heavy on the ground;
we can’t carry them, neither can the roads.
They scar the surface of the earth.

Premature baby, Shifa Hospital, Gaza. With the cutoff of fuel to Gaza on October 22, 150 preemies’ incubators will fail within days. Photo by Kashfi Halford on Flickr.

We get lost in the past, present, and future.

When a child is born, we feel sad for him or her.
A child is born to suffer here, sir!

A mother feels the great pain in labor.
A child cries after leaving the dark, but secure place.

In Palestine, it is always dark.
In Palestine, children always cry.

Sir, we are not welcome anywhere.
Only cemeteries don’t mind our bodies.

We are no longer looking for Palestine.
We are dying.
Soon, Palestine will search for us,
for our whispers, for our footsteps,
for our fading pictures fallen off aging walls
of silence.***

* Mosab Abu Toha, “The View From My Window in Gaza.” The New Yorker.

** Mosab Abu Toha, Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear: Poems from Gaza

*** ibid.

**** Mosab Abu Toha, “We Are Looking for Palestine,” Solstice Literary Magazine.

See Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 250-306.

Also see Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion.

Banner Image: “Scenes from Gaza Crisis 2014.” A father and son carry away remnants of their lives from the rubble of their home destroyed by Israeli strikes in Towers Al-andaa – the northern Gaza Strip. United Nations Photo on Flickr

Queries for Contemplation

What do these poems say to your heart?  And to your government?

Recommended Reading

Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox lays out a whole new direction for Christianity—a direction that is in fact very ancient and very grounded in Jewish thinking (the fact that Jesus was a Jew is often neglected by Christian theology): the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality, the Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa in an extended and deeply developed way.
Original Blessing makes available to the Christian world and to the human community a radical cure for all dark and derogatory views of the natural world wherever these may have originated.” –Thomas Berry, author, The Dream of the Earth; The Great Work; co-author, The Universe Story

A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice

In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register

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5 thoughts on “Poems from the Palestinian Camps”

  1. Avatar

    A wise elder taught that the Truth is as vast as the stars in the sky and the sands in the sea… each one offering a different point of view, rooted in place, as to what one experiences.

    Holding a sacred space of listening to another, sharing one’s Truth… causes our hearts, minds, and souls to converge with a much more expansive view… drawing us to places we’ve never been and experiences we’ve never encountered… somehow mysteriously rooting us in solidarity with the other… awakening the living Spirit of compassion inherent within all.

    My prayer is for political leaders of all nations; amidst the warring… to enter into this sacred space of really listening to the innocent civilians… those grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and the cries of the children… and the ravaged Earth itself… whom are anguishingly, painfully, sorrowfully, yet courageously, willingly sharing their own truth. My prayer is that the leaders of all nations may respond in solidarity… with compassionate mercy. Amen!

  2. Avatar

    We are not alone. Christian Sunday school teacher, sickened and angry. But alive, and not bombed. Yet. We are not alone, in grief and in our sense of complicit complicated
    complex confusion.
    Not vengeance.
    Helpless with violence, Powerful with humanity.

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