West Bank Dignity

Jalazon is a refugee camp
where stones and ashes are as common as bread
where Arab children scatter like stray cats
from the fire of God in every rifle shot

In Jalazon hot dust falls upon
three feet of rubbish once three stories tall
torn from the alley like a missing tooth
like a gravestone tipped in a childish prank

A bent man stumbles on a broken stone
a young boy stoops to place it in the trash
nevermind the shattered millions more
one stone makes a difference in Jalazon


Based on a true scene I witnessed in Israel (West Bank) in 1994, this poem still feels to me like it should go deeper. There is much more to say. This draft was actually “finished” in a hotel lobby in Atlanta the night before I was supposed to deliver a presentation entitled “Stones and Ashes: A Poem or Two” at the Alpha Chi National Honor Society conference in 1995. Yes, I titled the presentation after an unfinished work, and even had the audacity to board the plane to Georgia without a complete manuscript! After my talk, someone asked for a copy of the poem and I gave him my handwritten original, thinking I had written it down elsewhere; I never found it. I later sat and wrote it out again by memory. I have a feeling that if I ever do finish this poem properly, it may run quite long. But for now the seed lies dormant and I have the sense not to water it. I feel it may be a work that will consume me until I master it, and that will have to wait for another season.


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