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Thursday, November 09, 2023


by Amy Wolf

I see* you, with your white flag raised on a stick, held high.
Child on your shoulder, two little legs dangling beneath your ears,
The hand not holding the white flag is grasping your son’s ankle.
A daughter walks beside you, a wife or mother follows behind, wailing.
Out of all of the Arabic I hear in the video*, I understand only Nakba,
But that is said often. Tragedy; expulsion; we won’t be going back, it says.
Your face is dirty, I think you have not had enough water to drink,  let alone to bathe
In, for a while. You look parched.
I look for your provisions; who is carrying the clothes you might change into,
The kitchen utensils, pots, pans, mattresses.
There is only you, and your youngers and elders, and one teenager
Carrying a bundle of clothes smaller than a suitcase.
He looks baffled.
I hear the words of the soldiers, hurrying you along.
They do not step into the picture to offer water, or comfort, or rest.
They are voices. I cannot impute any kindness to them,
Although you might convince me that a forced march from home
Is marginally better than having that home bombed and brought down on your head,
Doubling neatly as your tombstone and grave.
I see you, and I see my ancestors, in line to get on the trains.
With their small bundles, and cluster of relatives.
Yes, those trains.
Don’t look away.
Didn’t we say, never again?
Didn’t we say, when you pen a people in a ghetto, then make them abandon even that
For a long death march to an unknown place where there are too many bodies and not enough
Water and food
Let alone space to lay down
Didn’t we say that was genocide?
Didn’t we swear to speak up next time?
The Trail of Tears comes to mind.
Old people falling dead on the way, and children.
Women refusing to leave their young ones, and staying next to them to die in the cold.
This is not genocide porn.
I do not enjoy these pictures.
But I have met the ghosts of earlier marches.
On a cold spring morning in TN, a long-dead woman showed me
Where she killed herself with a knife to lay beside her child.
Willing to walk to Oklahoma, but not to leave her baby behind.
She said to me, “In the hall there, you are all dancing and singing and praying and setting out food for your ancestors.
Where is our food? We lived here. Feed us.”
I set out food for them, and prayer and song, and took the memory with me.
The humans walking from Gaza City to Khan Younis will be on that road for a long time,
Haunting all of those to come. Rebuking any who try to move into that space
With the same demand, dead or alive. “We live here; feed us.”
Centuries from now, should mankind survive on this planet,
You will still be able to see a line of white flags heading north to south,
Hear the sound of shuffling feet tired beyond reckoning of lifting up and setting down,
Listen to the cries of children and  the wailing of their mothers.
People like myself will be called in to do space clearings
And we will say, “I can’t tell them to leave. They live here. Just feed them.
Honor them.”
To my Jewish relatives I say this; you do not honor the memory of the victims of the Holocaust
By consenting to and cheering on and excusing
A forced march
To crowded conditions
With little food
And less water.
Don’t you remember?
This is how it starts.

*The videos referenced by the speaker in this poem can be viewed here and here.

Amy Wolf is an LMT and energy worker who resides in Seattle, WA, and is studying writing.