poetry archive: on the right, the way to bethlehem

I wrote this poem for a workshop at the Jewish Voice for Peace Young Leadership Institute in New Orleans, which I was one of the planners for. You can read about our actions at the General Assembly, and read our declaration here. The painting referred to in the poem is by Valerio Adami, and is currently being shown at the Boca Raton Museum of Art until the 9th January.

new orleans, LA. 6 november 2010

i saw a painting once
called,
“on the right, the way to bethlehem”

it was the future,
painted in broad strokes,
flat shapes of color held in by thick black lines,
it was the future.

blasted trees with no more leaves,
twisted branches,
a camel, two humps.

a yellow sky, sickly yellow.

one mosque,
alone,
indistinguishable
from all the others that were

and across the middle
still
stood
a wall,

tall and gray,
just like today,
holding back dreams,
holding in dreams,
still the same

built on a foundation of blood and bone
long disappeared into the blasted ground.

two bodies aside the wall,
flat as paper,
painted on to make something ugly beautiful.
it’s not beautiful.

two
lovers,
bodies
interlocked.

indistinguishable
from one another, two —

the world will not end this way.
i will not be one of those,
who,
one hundred years ago,
stayed silent
when they were read the science fiction novel of our present,
ignoring the deafening truth of the black lines.

but, listen,
my brothers and sisters.
the land does not forget the blood spilled on it
even as it becomes
indistinguishable
from the soil,

and so we become dirtier
and dirtier
as we walk

and a massacre
does not have
thick
black
lines
drawn around it,
making it
comprehensible,
easy to digest.

five hundred pages
of burned children,
human shields,
borders drawn hastily by our ancestors,
thick
black
lines
are a lie.

the ghosts are there still,
even once the earth is blasted under the pallid sky,

but know:
they are not ghosts yet.
we are not ghosts yet.
there is work now to do,
and we must not turn away.
it is our obligation.

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About mirit mizrahi

artist, writer, activist, giant. זהירות! אני מזרחית
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