Checkpoints & Interviews & Gunpoints

I just got another phone call

from my friend in Bethlehem

who is more educated than I am

but is waiting to hear back

about a job scrubbing toilets

and emptying bed pans

at a nursing home

in Jerusalem

and his pay

after a month’s worth of hard days

will be 3,000 shekels

but a one month permit

for the right to submit

to checkpoints

and soldiers who look at you

like an animal in a zoo

is 2,000 shekels

so the take home pay

for one month of hard work

and checkpoints

and yes sir

and yes ma’am

and one month of your heart breaking

for the young soldiers

who just don’t realize…

one month of the system claiming

more of your humanity

as it’s prize

the pay for an entire month of this

is less than I used to make

in a day

working construction

and the destruction of Palestine

is on going

but the people aren’t showing

any signs of breaking

they are taking the high road

checkpoints and all

but they pray for the day

that the walls will all fall

down

and there will be no more checkpoints

to get to the city

much less,

to get across town

and when I say to my friend

‘try not to let this get you down’

he says he’s just doing

what he’s got to do

and he’ll always be polite

so the soldiers let him through

so he can get to work

to make a little money

to help his family.

 

I started to cry

when my friend said

that, though many of his friends

have wound up dead

or in prison

he said,

“These soldiers,

these 18, 19, 20 year old kids

they are the victims of this occupation

far more than me and my family,

these kids, made to hold a rifle

and play judge, jury

and executioner

made to play God

they are the victims

because they can’t see

that we’re the same.

I don’t blame them

they just don’t know

they just don’t know…”

 

He said that the other day

when he was being interviewed

to get a one day permit

to pass through

to the other side of the great divide

for his job interview

a young soldier

who couldn’t have been more than 18,

maybe 19 years old

was shocked when he answered the first question

in English

and the soldier responded

in English

and the rest of the interview was conducted

in English

and the young soldier’s demeanor changed

and he found it strange

that my friend spoke English at all

much less

fluently

and that he had more than one degree…

and the young soldier began

to see my friend

as a human being

on equal ground

and after he found my friend’s humanity

and the interview went pleasantly

and my friend got the permit

and he found out

that this young soldier who spoke English fluently

was from the east coast

of the United States

but the fate of Palestinians

wanting to work in Israel

for a take home pay

of less than 10 US dollars a day

shouldn’t rely on them speaking

fluent English

or having multiple degrees

and it shouldn’t rely on

the rare young soldier

who is able to look past the dehumanization

which is much needed for any occupation,

to look past that…

and see their humanity

because humanity is something

that soldiers are trained

not to see…

is something that people are trained

not to see

but this is wrong

and it does not have to be

and it hurts everyone involved

and only after all of the walls come down

and apartheid is no more

only then

will there be

no more victims

and only then

will people on both sides

of this apartheid

be free…

 

But,

sadly

that’s not how settler colonialism works

and if the world remains

silent

the occupying army

will only become

more and more violent

and there will only be

more and more checkpoints

and more and more Palestinians

living their lives at gunpoint

and more and more interviews

and less and less soldiers

able to see any humanity at all

and more and more bullets

and more and more bombs

and less and less of a chance

that the wall will ever fall

and more and more settlements

with swimming pools

and less and less clean water

for refugees

who are forced to beg God,

please send some rain!

and America never reined in

it’s own expansion

so Israel is only following

our example

they just want to be

a great democracy

like us

no matter how many people

and places

they have to trample

no matter how many more villages

they have to bulldoze

to create more open spaces

to build more and more settlements

on top of aquifers …

but we should all remember

that without us,

the people

there could be no

oppressive governments.

 

If my friend can empathize

with his oppressor

if he can can feel sorry

for the young soldiers

cast into this violent roll

how can anything but

complete liberation

for my friend and his people

be anybody’s goal?

 

If we remain silent,

or worse

if we keep blaming the victim

and aiding and abetting the oppressor

massacres in Gaza and Jenin

will be remembered

alongside Bear River

and Wounded Knee

and America

will have no less blood

on it’s hands

than in the days

when Uncle Sam

was killing natives by the dozen

and colonizing

all of their land

from sea to shining sea

Israel is just doing what we taught them

from sea to shining sea

we need to wake up now

and pull our heads

out of our asses

so we can see

the humanity

of the Palestinians

before it’s too late

because,

at this rate

by Israel’s ‘centennial’ in 2048

all that will remain

of Palestine

will be a handful of reservations

surrounded by 30 foot concrete walls

and there might be a few casinos

and there will likely be liquor stores

and meth labs

but no healthcare, or education,

or rehab

and there will probably still be interviews

for costly work permits

and security for people like my friend

to submit to

every single day

and the world will shrug

and all we will be able to say is

“So it goes…”

 

 

Posted in poem, Poetry, poetry for peace, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , ,

Boston & Bethlehem

I have friends in Boston

and when I’m on the phone with them

I get all the latest gossip

I find out who got married

and who had a kid

who bought a new house

and who got a new job

and he is a lawyer now

and she is a doctor now

and so and so got Red Sox season tickets

and so and so went to Italy

for their honeymoon

and so and so bought a beach house

on the Cape

and so and so’s neighborhood

is being gentrified

and so and so is banging dope

and so and so just got out of rehab

and so and so just got a DUI

and so and so just got arrested

for a drunken bar fight

and so and so just got pulled over again

for driving while black

and so and so just got laid off

and so and so didn’t get a promotion

and so and so got a divorce

and so and so is going through a rough patch

and so and so is back at the shelter

at Government Center

and so and so is back in the psych ward

at the Brockton VA

and so and so quit their job

to live out of a backpack for a while

they’re trying to find themselves

and you can follow their blog

if you’d like

they’re in Vietnam at the moment.

I have friends in Bethlehem

and when I’m on the phone with them

I get all the latest gossip

I find out who got married

and who had a kid

and so and so lost an eye to rubber bullet

and so and so got a traumatic brain injury

from a teargas canister shot at close range

and so and so was shot in the stomach

and so and so was shot in the back of the head

I find out who is alive

and who is dead

and who lost all their olive trees

when settlers burned them to the ground

and so and so was lucky enough

to get a work permit

to temporarily pass through apartheid

to scrub shit stains from toilet bowls

on what seems like the other side of the world

but in reality

is just on the other side

of a 9 meter tall concrete wall

nearly the size of the Green Monster

at the Fenway Park in Boston

and I find out who got arrested

trying to sneak past that wall

to the other side

to scrub shit stains from toilet bowls

without a work permit

and I find out who got arrested

for swearing at a soldier at a checkpoint

after the soldier wouldn’t let them through

to visit their dying father in the hospital

in Ramallah

and she is in prison now

and he just got out

and I find out why it is

that my friend hasn’t been able to answer

or call.

It’s always interesting

these phone calls with friends

in such different places

I love them and miss them

and can still see their faces

and can still see the faces

of the other friends they talk about

and in Boston

my friends think everything is so important

and life is so stressful

and when I lived in Boston

I thought everything was so important

and life was so stressful

but in Bethlehem

what’s important is the present

and how can you be stressed

when you’re drinking delicious tea

in the dining room with family

even though there aren’t enough photographs

to cover all the bullet holes in the walls

and even though there aren’t enough children left

to fill all the chairs at the table

and even though the children that are left

are far too young for their 1,000 yard stare

and, when I was there

I learned from that beautiful family

to enjoy the moment at hand

and enjoy every sip of tea

because, that’s what their other children

the political prisoners

and the dead

would want to see

along with, of course

a world that is free

from checkpoints,

from soldiers

and from 30 foot walls

and I always feel so free

every time my friend from Bethlehem calls

and I remember

what it was like

living in the shadows

of the wall

on what seems like

the other side of the world

but I am not free

and I will never be

until that oppressive wall crumbles to the ground

and until all walls crumble to the ground

until systems of oppression

all fall down

from apartheid in Palestine

to economic apartheid in Boston

until then

I will remain with my friends

in the shadows,

though I will enjoy every sip of tea.

I have friends in Boston

and in Bethlehem

and they all have their problems

but their problems are different.

There are walls in Boston

and some of them are economic

and some of them are racial

and one is at a baseball park.

There are walls in Bethlehem

literally walls, 30 feet tall.

With the exception of the wall at Fenway Park

all walls from Boston to Bethlehem

all walls from the US to Palestine

need to come down

both the literal

and figurative ones

and it’s beyond absurd

that we even consider

building new ones.

Posted in poem, Poetry, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Generation After Generation

They followed an idea

out onto a limb

and it broke

and they fell down

through the smoke

and into the fire

and the flames burned

and they learned lessons

only after it was too late

and their children

climbed the same tree

and they met

the same fate

and if this tree

could only speak

it would ask them

what it is they seek

and why

generation after generation

they must keep taking

it’s limbs with them

when they fall

and, why bother climbing

at all

when they could

just as easily

gather kindling on the ground…

 

 

 

Posted in poem, Poetry, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Are You Alive, My Friend?

For Nasim

Are you alive, my friend

are you free, or in prison?

Do you have any food

to eat tonight

and do you have the strength left

to keep fighting the good fight

to keep standing up for what’s right

and are you alright…

are you okay?

I pray that you can call

or answer tomorrow

there’s so much to talk about

and there’s so much

that I want to say to you

but the last few phone calls

didn’t go through

and I just wish that I knew…

I just want the best

for you and your family

and I wish the entire world

could see

that even without bars

you have never been free

and it breaks my heart

that, realistically

they could lock you up

and throw away the key

or shoot you in the head

for protesting

non-violently…

or simply for existing

in this world

as a “military age”

Palestinian man

just trying to survive

is a crowded refugee camp.

 

 

Will you live to see

apartheid stumble

and the walls crumble

to the ground?

 

Will you live to see

the day

that you and your family

are no longer refugees?

 

Will you live to see

the sun rise

over a free Palestine?

Posted in poem, Poetry, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Violently Uprooted

Follow the tracks

and you will be led

through the rubble

that was a Palestinian village

until last spring

 

Follow the tracks

and you will be led

through the Israeli settlement

that was a Palestinian village

until 1967

 

Follow the tracks

and you will be led

through the Israeli town

that was a Palestinian village

until 1948

 

Follow the tracks

and you will be led

through the empty field

where olive trees grew

for thousands of years

until they were violently uprooted

 

Follow the tracks

and you will be led

through the pockmarked refugee camp

where Palestinians have survived

since they were violently uprooted

 

Follow the tracks

and you will find

war crimes

buried with the truth

and desecrated cemeteries

 

Follow the tracks

and you will find

bulldozers

still violently uprooting

ancient trees and human beings

 

Follow the tracks

and you will find

politicians

violently uprooting

history and peaceful dreams

 

Follow the tracks

and you will find

an old man’s farm

sliced in half already

by a concrete wall

and if you’re silent

you can hear

the sound of his heart

breaking

beneath the weight

of the bulldozer

 

and if you’re silent

you can hear

the sound of olive branches

breaking

beneath the weight

of the occupation

 

and if you’re silent

things will continue

like this

until the last olive tree

is violently uprooted

 

and if you’re silent

things will continue

like this

until the last Palestinian

is violently uprooted

 

and if you’re silent

things will continue

like this

until the last village

is destroyed

and turned into a settlement

 

Follow the tracks

and you will find

that if you’re silent

things will continue

like this

until it’s too late.

Posted in poem, Poetry, poetry for peace, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , ,

The Things We Remember

Today is the 11th of August 2018

and oddly enough,

the date has stuck with me

since I was 9 years old

in 1993

I was at Fenway Park

for my first Red Sox game

watching Roger Clemens

record his 2,000th career strikeout

against the Yankees

but I have come to see sports

as a distraction, akin

to the bread and circuses of old

and a great primer for tribalism

and stepping-stone to nationalism

and a decade later,

during game 3

of the American League Championship Series

in 2003

I was back home on leave

and a high school buddy had an extra ticket

so, of course I had to go

and it was quite the show…

as 73 year old Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer

charged the mound

but found Pedro Martinez

waiting to toss him to the ground

and a little later in the game,

the action came to the bullpen

right in front of our right field seats

and a Red Sox groundskeeper

wound up going to the hospital

with cleat-shaped bruises on his back

and arms

and we were hooting and hollering

and, that night

the Sox may have won the fight

but the Yankees won the game

and the series

and leaving the game,

as the crowd emptied onto Lansdowne Street

right on the corner in front of Jillian’s

a Yankee fan was hit by a taxi

and laid there,

bloody in the street

while dunk Boston fans gathered around

shouting “Yankees suck…

Yankees suck…

Yankees suck…”

taunting the man

who was just hit by a taxi

because he was wearing

the wrong replica baseball jersey.

The taxi wasn’t going too fast

and the Yankees fan was probably drunk

and he probably wasn’t hurt too bad

but still…

and, while I didn’t chant “Yankees suck”

with the gathered crowd

I also didn’t help the man

because, rules are rules…

and he was a Yankees fan

and most of the crowd

was belligerently drunk

so it wouldn’t have been safe

to be a Yankee-sympathizing punk

and I remember that night

and this night, the 11th of August

twenty-five years ago…

why?

I don’t really know

well, I guess I do know

that was my tribe

I was a Red Sox fan

and, for me

seeing that Red Sox-Yankees game

on August the 11th

when I was 9 years old

was like seeing the Beatles

I idolized those guys

and little 9 year old me cried

when I saw that God damn traitor

Wade Boggs

wearing the uniform of the enemy

playing third base.

Posted in poem, Poetry, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Gaza’s Blood

We watch as snots from teargas flow

and eyes burn like the sun

and medics drown in Gaza’s blood

but our taxes load the gun

and we pretend balloons and slingshots

are a match for snipers, tanks, and jets

or that homemade RPG’s

pose any sort of actual threat

against a billion dollar weapons systems

made by Lockheed, Boeing, and BAE

Gaza is an open air prison

filled with millions of refugees

they have no where in this world to go,

their grandparents villages were all destroyed

and when they raise their voice too high

Netanyahu gets annoyed…

for months, they protested peacefully

and the IDF killed them all the same

then a few people shot some RPG’s

and of course now

all Palestinians are to blame

they’re between a rock

and hard-place

rather,

between a militarized wall

and the Mediterranean Sea

they aren’t asking for the world

just for a little dignity

and if you break some bread with them

I know that you’ll agree

that it’s just human nature…

this longing to live free

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Gaza, poem, Poetry, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,