Letter to the Americans — Ammiel Alcalay


{via Warscapes}


Letter to the Americans

Ammiel Alcalay


You know as well as I do that a people under occupation will


be unhappy, that parents will fear for the lives of their precious children,


especially when there is NOWHERE TO HIDE.




You know as well as I do that a husband’s memory of his wife forced to


deliver their child at a checkpoint will not be a happy one. You know as


well as I do that the form of her unborn child beaten to death in the womb




will never leave a mother’s mind. And you know as well as I do that a girl will


have cause to wonder at the loss of her grandfather, made to wait on his


way to the hospital, and she’ll have cause to cry at the bullet lodged




in her brother’s head — You know as well as I do that watching


someone who stole the land you used to till water their garden


while you hope some rain might collect to parch your weary throat




might cause bitterness — You know as well as I do that a family,


a village, a city, and a people punished for the act of an individual


might not react well to the idea of “two sides.” You know as well




as I do that Hamurabi’s Code was a great legal precedent and that


the translation of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth means






no thing less. You know as well as I do that aerial bombardment


and white phosphorous and naval blockade and tanks and snipers


and barbed wire and walls and house demolitions and land




confiscation and the uprooting of olive trees and torture without


trial and collective punishment and withholding water and


access to the sea and even the sky itself are no match for rocket




propelled grenades and all the nails ever put into every homemade


bomb ever made even though metal still pierces every skin — You


know as well as I do that justice dwells in the soul as in the soil




and though you can’t ever know what you’d do if you were in


someone else’s shoes, maybe you would have the strength to carry


your elders on your back, the courage to stay at the operating table




or drive an ambulance after your children were killed, the nerve


to face the daily grief compounded by loss after loss until all


you have left is the unutterable scream you possess in the




heave of your breast and the depth of your chest. But you also


know as well as I do that the size of the prison increases the capacity


to resist, and the extent of the suffering makes fear




just another feeling among many because the


most occupied are also the most free since there are no illusions


left but the vision of freedom and how to




realize it. You know all this but you know


too, just as I do, that enough is enough


and those below will continue to rise up.



Ammiel Alcalay


August 1-3, 2014


Click here to download Ammiel Alcalay’s Letter to the Americans with design by Garth Davidson Gallery


Image by Naji al-Ali. Painted on the Palestinian side of the separation barrier close to Bethlehem. 

Ammiel Alcalay is a poet, translator, critic, scholar and activist, he teaches at Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center. He is the author of numerous books, including Scrapmetal and After Jews and Arabs: Remaking Levantine Culture. Some of his translations include Sarajevo Blues and Nine AlexandriasIslanders, a novel, came out in 2010. His new selection of poetry, Neither Wit Nor Gold, was published by Ugly Duckling Presse in 2011. A 10th anniversary reprint of from the warring factions and a new book of essays, a little history, were published by re:public / UpSet in Fall, 2012. He is the founding editor of Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative, a series of student and guest edited archival texts emerging from the New American Poetry.



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