‘White Phosphorus’ and Other Poems

By Edward Mast

The sand is frozen.
Each particle fixed in place.
Salt sparkles on solid waves
that lift and crest unmoving and do not
reach the frozen shoreline.
Inland broken weeds stand bent,   
unfalling undying leaning on air.
Jagged stones hang unsupported
from broken walls,
gravity helpless.
Ragged puddles of red are mirrors
or ponds that do not soak or dry up.
A bearded man has dropped his cane
which hovers suspended in mid fall  
while he stares bewildered at a puncture in his side.
A mother’s crooked hand clutches
at part of her child.
Faces stare without seeing
at billowing pillars of smoke captured
mid dance, black haze in solid space.
In all directions flashes of light
bloom white like baubles of ice
that melt and shatter flesh and metal
in plumes surrounding their still white burning
burning that never stops burning
never not ever burning forever
stronger than time, future and past
nothing but clustered rubble now,
parts slashed off from hearts in pain
forever, nothing in time but this,
no decade or epoch can stop this white fire,
this frozen moment will never disappear,
only we disappear and even then
we leave it behind intact.

From far away in black space
above the frozen blue of the sky
this frozen contortion of torture looks
like nothing. The masses of land look calm.
From farther away even the land
is too small to see. Smaller still
the weeds and puddles and grains of sand
that nothing in time can change.

***

What Died

all the animals in the Gaza City Zoo
a large number of orange trees and other plants
an as yet uncounted number of children women and men
a never to be counted number of insects and reptiles
parts of many bodies
love in many hearts
resistance, or so some hoped
the moral authority of the invaders
humanity
belief in a future
the ability to rebuild
the willingness to live with invaders
the chance for a tranquil contented life
the chance for a life without upheaval
more children women and men
the chance for us to have stopped it.

***

White Phosphorus

Like napalm, it burns away falsehood.
The skin of the victim peels off to reveal
the heart and imagination of
the attacker, the perpetrator, the invader.
The hot white smoke which falls toward the ground
with its garlic smell does not obscure
the eye-piercing white of the truth.
The drowning of living organs in pain,
the scream-stretched throats and blackened eyes,
the crushed homes, the incinerated children
all were alive in the hearts of the attackers
before they were brought to being on earth.
The goal of the invaders’ hearts was to crush
the hearts of the people invaded, and their bodies
if they didn’t submit.  The burning of bodies
was imagined, was planned, was calculated.
The invaders danced and sang when their plan
manifested itself on flesh.
The searing and penetrating of flesh
was no regret, no accident,
but a lure, a wish, a state of mind,
an imagination of power, a conviction,
a justification of itself, a need
which ignites when exposed to the air we breathe
and burns without stopping till the oxygen stops
or it burns itself away to nothing.
It burns beyond the victim to expose
the root and bone of the ones who use it
and shows the thoughts you thought were secret
and leaves your heart naked at last
so all can see what has always lived there
waiting to burn and be burned and burn
until all the truths of your heart come to be
and you alone of all the world
are safe, are safe, are safe,
surrounded by flame.

***

Occupation

The war continues silent while we sleep.
It is called occupation, and is no news.
While we dream of floating and corridors
our automatic weapons are aimed at children
who if they grow up will grow up learning
obedience means surrender.
While we breathe the deep soft breath of sleep,
our soldiers prod the intimate places
of those we defeat each day, each day.
While our genitals moisten and thicken
at regular intervals though the night,
our victory hovers with whirling blades
and marching feet to press its barriers
inward until the defeated have
no victory left, no triumph, no private
place that does not acknowledge
our ownership over their freedom.

With occupation, we win in our sleep.
In our sleep the checkpoints make them wait
            and by their waiting we win.
In our sleep the curfew makes them huddle
            and by their huddle we win.
In our sleep the fathers are beaten and cowed
            and by their beating we win.
We sleep, we win, they lose, they lose,
the weapons and tools we loose in our sleep
will grind them down, will grind them down,
they break, they kneel, but still our tools
will rasp and file and grate and scrape
until they are faceless, until they are blades.
And when their edges are sharp enough
they will turn on us; and finally then,
too late, we may wake.

– Edward Mast is a playwright and performer whose plays and solo performances have been seen in New York, Chicago, Seattle, Jerusalem, and other cities. He contributed these poems to PalestineChronicle.com.

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