A Zoo in Rafah

The Palestine Chronicle is pleased to feature three new poems by distinguished US poet Sam Hamod.

At Fakhani, The Shoe: Lebanon, After the Bombing

It is a
Shoe a
Single baby’s
I pull it from the
Wreckage in Fakhani, a refugee
Separated from its
Foot, it is April
And it is darkening in the covering
Black Lebanese earth, the soft earth
Has cracked its white surface, marked with
Streaks of blood

And who wore this shoe, what
Little girl, or was it a
Boy, what did the
Father say when he
Smiled, did he laugh
Back, or was she a shy girl who had
Already learned to be a
Coquette – or was she
Chubby and withdrawn among
People, if he was a boy
Was he already strong, his
Dark hair flying as he
Wrestled his father’s
Arm – and what
Did her mother say to her
Father when they heard the jets
Screech across the sky, did they
Hear the whistle, or was it an
Offshore song, Israeli sirens at
Sea who sent in wave after wave of
Glistening silver sheets of
And why was
This little shoe
Left by itself to wonder
In the dark, to find its way
To the surface by itself, and how
Did it feel

Leaving its foot behind –
And what did the foot say
As the shoe slipped away
In the darkness
Toward the surface, did the
Child turn over as if in
A dream
did he dream
Mother and father were blowing

And what am I
To say, a stranger now
To my parent’s land, in the
Bright Washington afternoon,
Here in Fakhani, holding onto this
Little shoe, feeling grief in
Arabic saying it in English, so
That it is flat against
The round care of this shoe, something
Is missing, how did this shoe come
To surface today to meet me, the
Child who can explain it
Is sleeping
Under the new coming
Grass, under the splintered boards and
Shining glass, and how
Long can we stand in the
Shadows hiding what our hearts know – like
A telegraph beacon repeating
Someone is missing
Someone is missing
Someone is missing.

Sucking in the air
We drink Palestine, we taste
Lebanon, we hear Syria, we remember
Jordan, all the same
Land, the home of the same shoes,
Split now,   like this foot
From its shoe,     the blood smell
Coming from the piles of
In the hot Lebanese sun, and
So we are at home, tearing away
The language and names
Of countries, of village,
Tearing away the memory of these
Past two weeks, believing this shoe
Never had a foot, something lost
From a shoe store by mistake, something made
Alone and single in the tannery of
Rafik Dibbs in Machgara in southern
Lebanon, some sort of dream of what it was like
In Alay and Zah× le, when people
Would stay up until early morning
Doing the dab×kee, eating olives and
Kib×bee by the flowing creek

A place where there were
No airplanes, a place where
There were no rockets, no
Ships lobbing in shells from
The blue and glistening Mediterranean, but
This shoe, we know
Is missing its foot –
Shall we search in Tel Aviv, in Washington, in
Moscow – shall we search, or
Shall we make another
Speech, shall we make another
Poem, shall we empty the canister
Of language and simply

The shoe
I give you this
It is
Not mine,
It is


Poems Are Not Words Alone

By Sam Hamod

In Memory of Gaza, Palestine; December 2008-January 2009
Are not bombs
But they splay across the night sky
Lighting corridors where children hide
Blood streaming from their mother, their skin
Burning from the phosphorous Israelis used
To light the sky and to burn sorrow
Into children, mothers, fathers
So that they will have nightmares
And stories of the nightmares
For two thousand years, but poems
Are not just words, poems,
shall last even longer


There Must Be Something Dangerous About A Zoo In Rafah, (Palestine)

Somehow, the Israeli
Army thinks that
leopards in cages
are a threat
to their security, that
someone might find out
that one is a
disguised priest
from the Church
of the Holy Sepulchre,
or that the lion is actually
Yasser Arafat, just hiding out, or
that the Jaguar prowling
restlessly is a member of Hamas–

there has to be something
about this zoo,
about these animals
the Israelis and their
bulldozers and tanks
were worried about–
why would they attack a zoo

Just yesterday, the tank
came forward, firing round
after round, the Cockatoos
screeched, the Macaws went
wild in their cages, screen wire
smithering into thousands of
shreds of death, piercing
the 2 am night air
sending the Raccoon
into panic as his leg
sliced open, and the
Monkey’s arm went limp
with the crunch of his tree,
hundreds of Parrots were
caught in a large net
and whisked away in the cab
of a bulldozer, while another
tank shell shattered the
night air, killing 2 children,
Ali and Leila, then caving the
roof of the keeper’s workshed,
where Mohammad Juma had
worked for months
creating a zoo
for the children of Rafah, the
only recreation
in this nightmare
of Israeli torture and destruction,
where children weren’t allowed
to go out
for fear of Israeli snipers,
where old lady Khamis, in her 60’s, but
some say, 70’s, you know how
vain women are–tried to stay
in her house, but the bulldozer
reminded her of Rachel Corrie
and finally her daughter dragged
her, screaming from the
falling wall that coverd them both with
cuts and dust, shattering
memories, creating new

the two children,
admired the lion, but
they didn’t move fast enough
when the Abrams shell
screamed through the air,
the two twisted children
lie in one another’s arms, tight
with fear, tightly bound–until,
without breath

The fox has run off, Jumah says,
but no one has any idea where–probably
dug in behind an old shell hole, shivering
from the shaking ground
as the tank grinds up the last of the
bird enclosures–the bulldozer grabs
and grabs and grabs, pushing
the entire scraps
of the defunct zoo
into the swimming pool

and the Macaws cry out
mournfully, covering the
wailing of the women, the
sobbing of the children, the
rage and frustration of Juma
as he picks up what is left
of the sign that says,
"Welcome to Rafah,
Welcome to our Zoo"

– Sam Hamod is a poet who was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, has published 10 books of poems, the winner of the Ethnic Heritage Prize for Poetry, taught at The Writers Workshop of The U. of Iowa, Princeton, Michigan, Howard and edited THIRD WORLD NEWS in Washington, DC. He contributed these poems to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: samhamod@sbcglobal.net.

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