What did you do while the children of Gaza
I argued with their killers.
What did you say?
I said that the innocent deserve innocence.
That the sound of laughter is better than nightmares,
and briefer. That the cost of killing
may be higher than the price of dying.
Did they listen?
Do killers ever listen? They are deafened
by their weapons’ drone and by the grate
of their own voices raging, denying.
Why were they angry?
They said that they needed to feel safe.
Safe from the children?
They said there are no children in Gaza,
only young combatants.
And the babies?
They said they are little snakes that will grow,
and it is better to kill them in their nests.
And what of the teachers? The singers? The artists?
The fathers? The mothers?
They said that all who live there are terrorists.
And as for the mothers, they said it is they
who bear the little snakes.
Did your protestations do any good?
No. I lost my breath, I lost my words, I lost my heart.
But had I not argued, I would have lost my soul.
Did any children survive?
In body, yes. In spirit, it is not sure.
The children who lived, what will become of them?
Their eyes will sear holes in the night sky.
Remember this when you look at the stars:
that it is the burning eyes of Gaza’s children
that hold your gaze.
Lisa Suhair Majaj, a Palestinian-American poet, writer, and scholar, was born in the US, raised in Jordan, and educated at the American University of Beirut and the University of Michigan, where she earned two Masters and a PhD. She is author of the prize-winning poetry collection Geographies of Light (Del Sol Press) and two children’s books, and co-editor of three collections of essays on Arab, Arab-American, and international women of color. She lives in Nicosia, Cyprus.
At the request of Lisa Suhair Majaj, the stipend for publishing this poem has been donated to The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund
Featured Image: Lisa Suhair Majaj with an Olive Tree in Palestine.