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

 

ONE PUNISHMENT FOR ONE CRIME— no thing more and

 

 

 

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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