‘Rise’ & ‘Postcards from Palestine’ – Poems

A child in Gaza flies kites carrying the colors of the Palestinian flag to commemorate Naksa Day. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Ciarán O'Rourke

Rise

After Tawfiq Ziad

From Nazareth: this light
in my eyes,
this flame in my blood,
and all the pain
of Palestine

I speak and gladly give –
I, the orphan
starving, who heard
the guns invade, the boots
ring out,

the prison walls resound.
For at my back
my people sing, like a dove
raised high on woken winds,
or this flag

of love and history
our voices carry,
which soon will shake
the mountains, like
the olive tree in leaf.

***

Postcards from Palestine

The tidy wars you planned

above my body’s shrinking map,

 

the scars your bullet-mind unlatched,

and hatched, and loosed across my land,

 

the stench of metal on your boots,

the brutal compass in your hands,

 

(my south of buried villages,

my east of risen moons) –

 

they all go into it, shards

of the voice, or lines in the air,

 

into the remnant which you fear,

my torturer, will escape from here

to rectify the echoes, redirect the breeze…

that ghost, that almost emptiness,

 

in which your symphonies of dread

have dared me to believe.

 

~

 

We know our land

when the soldiers send us

to the border camps,

 

and press our mouths

into the ground.

 

We knew our home

when the fugue of drones

began to float,

 

rising, falling,

above the roof.

 

We’ll know our names

from the numbers

they assign to us,

 

our every death apportioned

by a decimal of grief.

 

~

 

Not the body only,

but my poetry

and dreams they killed –

 

the presidents and generals,

the governments

of nations,

 

the scientists

and educators

standing to attention,

 

the nimble-

minded bureaucrats

whose fingers typed extinction.

 

I mark them all

as profiteers

of massacre and rubble.

 

And to the others,

opening clear windows

to tomorrow’s sun, I say:

 

look for me

among the vanished faces

of my people.

 

~

 

Remember my words,

as if they were warmed by the blood in my wrist,

as if they were cut from the coil of my tongue.

 

Remember my song,

as if it contained the bricks of my city,

or rang with the sound of the sea on the rocks,

as if it resisted a world without pity,

or was wrung from the breath of my life’s skeleton.

 

Remember the sun

that lent me a shadow to plant in the ground,

that gave me the right to delight in the clouds,

that watched as I fell at the flash of the bombs,

that burns on the flesh of the bone-brittle homes.

 

Remember my poems,

as if in accusation of the architects of pain

when seeking for the future that the olive branch proclaims.

– Ciarán O’Rourke is a poet, based in Galway, Ireland. His first collection, The Buried Breath, was issued by Irish Pages Press in 2018 and highly commended by the Forward Foundation the following year. His miscellany of essays, One Big Union, was published in 2021, and his second poetry collection is forthcoming. More information about his work can be found at www.ragpickerpoetry.net/books. He contributed these poems to The Palestine Chronicle.

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)

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