by Matthew Dickman
I’m in the world again
without my mother or father
who seem more and more
like Russian dolls, as if I could
unscrew my mother’s head
and then the slightly smaller
and then my brothers
and sisters and me and finally
the family unassembled
as we are meant to be, as in the first
days before the planet earth,
when God was still gas,
wasn’t even a wave yet, a piece
of coral, an eye hiding
in the head of a fish
that would, in one million years,
be able to see on its own.
I’m walking in the snow
because there’s snow on the ground.
I’m thinking about snow
and brains in brainpans.
I’m thinking about you and your
hands, your voice, and how it’s exactly
the voice of everything warm.
I’m loving you as I used to
love older boys in my neighborhood,
the shade of them
and the violence of them,
the nunchucks and the silvery
throwing stars of the mouth
and above all the quiet of their
bodies, how they could appear,
a tremble of dark light
and pollen—that kind of quiet.
If only we could bring them all
back to life. I have this thing I keep
doing with Band-Aids
and the third smallest knife I own.
I know you know how it feels
to be a blister, all that blood
and tissue and poison turning into
a kind of ultimate, dominant
pressure, as if a diamond were being
formed. That’s what my body
has been getting at,
working for—why it’s been
renting out its extra rooms,
saving up, going forward,
marking its calendar like an Advent
made out of the broken glass
of a cockpit, the long strings of silk
that make up your arms,
which are also made of water.
See how it’s O.K., I can’t even die right
without warning you. I know—
I’m in Montpelier, the great
high seat of Vermont, the trees
are all green and the embarrassed
ghosts of mosquitoes,
dressed in glittering nail polish,
are coming to take me all the way home.
What is going on in Palestine today is not really about Hamas. It is not about rockets. It is not about “human shields” or terrorism or tunnels. It is about Israel’s permanent control over Palestinian land and Palestinian lives. It is about an unswerving, decades-long Israeli policy of denying Palestine self-determination, freedom, and sovereignty.
What Israel is doing in Gaza now is collective punishment. It is punishment for Gaza’s refusal to be a docile ghetto. Israel will accept nothing short of the acquiescence of Palestinians to their own subordination.
The truth of ghettos—what happens when you imprison 1.8 million people in a hundred and forty square miles, about a third of the area of New York City, with no control of borders, almost no access to the sea for fishermen (three out of the twenty kilometres allowed by the Oslo accords), no real way in or out, and with drones buzzing overhead night and day—is that, eventually, the ghetto will fight back. It was true in Soweto and Belfast, and it is true in Gaza. We might not like Hamas or some of its methods, but that is not the same as accepting the proposition that Palestinians should supinely accept the denial of their right to exist as a free people in their ancestral homeland.
… And yet, in America, the discussion ignores this crucial, constantly oppressive context, and is instead too often limited to Israeli “self-defense” and the Palestinians’ supposed responsibility for their own suffering.
In this surreal, upside-down vision of the world, it almost seems as if it is the Israelis who are occupied by the Palestinians, and not the other way around. In this skewed universe, the inmates of an open-air prison are besieging a nuclear-armed power with one of the most sophisticated militaries in the world.”
— Professor Rashid Khalidi, Collective Punishment in Gaza