Ode to Lifta – A Poem

Lifta village today. (Jacob Pace, Electronic Intifada)

By Aida Qasim

Even Neruda’s birds that once roamed from sea to sea have flown to other continents

The stones I once rested against during the olive harvest seem to sit by indifferently as another kingdom reigns
Have you forgotten me?
Like monuments among fertile landscapes of almond trees you once waved me back at sunset to the hills of my youthful laughter

Surely, earth…you remember my gentle footsteps?
Gliding through your beautiful terraces
Carefully unfurling flowing green robes you wore proudly like a confident bride on her wedding night

That was before the wolves arrived on ships from distant shores of a moonless night
to claim you beauty while raping you on the Amphitheatre of the world stage
They, who have not drunk the milk of your valleys howl at me:
“You do not belong there…you do not exist…you did not exist…this is not your home”

I am the orphaned daughter of my imagination
fostered by a loyal albatross who feeds my hungry lion
and nurses my self-loathing
…loathing reserved only for the survivors

I travel continents with bare walls and empty cafes in my suitcase
collecting mementos only to abandon them at train stations
I carry with me a treasure trove of embroidery; carvings from olive trees, Al Khalil pottery and a large rusted key to anchor me as I teeter on the edge of time
I collect papers to cultivate a memory
Stitching maps on embroidered robes forgotten by time
Sometimes even my memory taunts me and ridicules the feet that once imprinted my mother’s geography

Stones of my harvest…
you have not forsaken me
Quietly you conspire against the invaders
Gathering moss to cushion my weary back in preparation for the harvest’s return
while a flute forges a covenant with the moon
with each passing tide, a black menacing dog hijacks my dreams
till the next morning when my hungry lion chases away the shadow that plagues me
with the promise of a new moon

…Soon Neruda’s birds will return to familiar shores
and release my albatross of his burden

(Lifta, west Jerusalem, was ethnically cleansed in 1948.)

– Aida Qasim teaches Psychology and Social Work and is also completing her Doctorate in Social Work. She contributed this poem to PalestineChronicle.com.

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