It was raining Really raining When we arrived in Ramallah You from Sur Baher (Jerusalem) A place from another poem (2015) You taught me a new word Sounding funny to my ears and maybe to yours too: mablulah Wet
I knew when we were rounding The corner to the hotel Even in driving rain Since Qais had shown me on google maps (Dughri, dughri) Past where he studied American English (Hell, yeah) Marking the map for a lover or a friend
I was here before, RamAllah One day then (2017) Five days Now Staying over Together Till morning
We posed for a picture Outside Sakakini Center Not close yet, you can tell from the picture. Inside I saw art and young people On every floor And Khalil Sakakini’s card (which I had read about on JSTOR) was there “A Human Being, God Willing”
And my card says Middle East Studies Librarian Because I was there before (1987-88: Intifada.) And have been thinking of you Ever since. I haven’t been able To shake off the dust, The stories from the combatants, the lovers Heard then, and still now Lissa, Listen
We ate together And became closer Heart and liver with pomegranate
You showed me The water canisters (fear) How the British divided the city into sectors (to control) The watch on the lion (a good story) And with The Mahdi Appeared high school students Marching (a common sight)
And the three of us To the art funder’s new building A cube of glass and steel The library still in boxes Encyclopedia of Palestine And a view designed For visitors
And walking from there The striated earth Cut For this road And this building And I heard the stories Behind your art Ancient Common You’re telling them Anew For our time For your younger brother
In Mandela Square The Mahdi appears again Sitting in the shadow of His raised fist Amandla/Hurriyeh And if you looked down (we did) His famous quote embedded In the pavement The Arabic dots Squares of metal Pounded Cemented Strong And I sent our picture there To Albie So he could see. (Albie Sachs. Look him up, but know the Wikipedia is wrong. Instead read: The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter.)
And the next night, at Sakakini, The young people Set it up: Albie in his study Capetown With Ethiopian Bible scene framed Behind him (Painted or Embroidered? I can’t remember. Which scene? He wasn’t sure.) And his son Behind him And in Ramallah the young people Leaning forward To be with Albie
No one asked Albie If he had been to Palestine Even to “that part of the world” If they asked Yes, he had been In Ramallah And Gaza With Arafat An emissary from one Movement To another Qais remembers What Arafat said to Albie But I’ve forgotten. (That day in East Lansing at the museum: All feelings and a winter glove lost as soon as it was acquired.) I know That Albie drafted The ANC Code of Conduct (No Torture) Which was discussed Widely and then belonged to all
So, meet! Discuss widely Using old tools And new. Old materials and touch through the screen Someone on the other side of the world. (it’s possible!) Create together Here and there You and me
And at the end of the evening You so moved By the presentation of the South African Bill of Rights (“Justice Under A Tree”) And many sweets left over The set table waiting Should The Mahdi come.
A different day I visited your studio The space and your tools Small Delicate And I saw your work And was so moved Seeing and feeling The cactus and the doorframe Preserved Yet ready to move The shoe about to drop The walls closing in. And I placed the small painting Lansing Cactus #1 On a stand, on my immigrant grandmother’s Singer sewing machine Under the etching of Jerusalem From my mother’s house
Another night, I visited the young people The counterparts of Jaime Aryeh Aleeya Joan Ashley Ally Lauren Mehrdad.
Salem met me (I was lost in Bir Zeit Old Town) Salem who we first met in the video Salem of the wet hair (naiman!) Who lives so close to the colony (his word) of Beit Eel (seen through his window, on the video) How/Eichah (my word) Has The House of God (Beit El) Become a snake
And Khaled was there Posing upside-down For the camera Folding folding folding Folding folding Folding Origami t-shirt Prototype made of paper Will be cloth next spring (haiku)
And the storytellers arrived All female they The space transformed by chairs being pushed stairs swept pillows arranged Enraptured I (Though Khaled’s heard these grandmother-tales before.)
And I left with them, the storytellers In the servees. The high schooler Who travels for three hours What should take twenty minutes To prepare at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She asked about swimming and I said The sea is too salty Forgetting not everyone can see the sea And taste its salt (American passport)
And now it’s summer I came back Shaytan’s (Queen Anne’s) lace in bloom. I will eat mulberry (tuut) with you, and the taxi driver, still green.