Four Palestinian poems: The poet could have predicted it
Alisdare Hickson, A Scottish protester displaying his ‘Freedom For Palestine’ scarf at the start of London's Al Quds Rally in solidarity with Palestinians, June 10, 2018 (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)

Teacher, poet and activist Carolfrances Likins published ‘Because I Breathe, This I Must Write,’ a collection of poems, in 2013. More than a decade ago she presciently identified some of the critical issues in Palestine that have now broken out into Israel’s all-out war of starvation, death and expulsion against the Palestinian people, a war commonly viewed as genocidal. People’s World has the honor of publishing four poems from this collection which demonstrate the writer’s foresight and compassion, showing how the current hostility did not begin on October 7, 2023, but had a long gestation.

Watching the Wall

Walls built by them
through the middle of us
are not built to protect us from us,
but to protect them
from our coming to realize that

Walls between enemies might be shields
but walls
between people and their land,
between people and their water,
between people and their neighbors,
between people and the sunset,
are not meant to be shields

Walls make poor shields
if they create more

Walls meant to divide must
unite us:
this wall

Of a Land with a People

It’s possible
it just occurred to me
that you already know.

Would they be, then
all my arguments,
all my pleas
all my rantings
all my reaching into that place which
when touched
turns pain into the pearl of knowledge?
Would they be superfluous
if you already know?

Perhaps you know
but that knowledge is of a people wronged
and a people being wronged
by a people you learned to call “we.”

it’s of the precious Dream being
just maybe
if not wrong
at least wrong to them.
It is the Dream
of a magical place of healing
of a promised land of refuge
of a desert made to bloom
by the sweat of your people.
(As if it had not been blooming for millennia.)

Perhaps this knowledge—
of children traumatized
of youth crushed
of parents anguished
of elders refusing to forget—
lurks within you
threatening to tear from you
your cherished bewilderment as to why
“those people” do
“those things.”

This knowledge might seed your action
in their defense.
But what value is there in knowledge
if it’s enclosed
within a spiritual flesh
layer by layer
year after year
to smother it
each layer crying out in pain
at the tearing?

My friend
I have no answers for you.
I’m sorry.

Forbidden Anguish
January 2009

So what am I supposed to do with this?
These tears?
These fears?
This rage?
So how am I supposed to not feel for her
being torn from her childhood,
then sealed into this tomb
and now at this very moment—
while a bird sings outside my window—
she’s being pounded
her grandchildren ripped from her arms
slaughtered from the sky

while I
—I’m told—
must just buy
this cotton candy kingdom
that’s supposed to be my life.

—I’m told—
should swallow the excuses
shoved into my face to soften their disgrace.
I’m warned not to offend
not to hint at the end of the dream built upon
the nightmare of her life.

But no—
I will let it out
I’m going to shout her name:

Travel Notes
July 2009

Do you think you could do that?

Could you pass through these gates
that slice up families
seeing this in the eyes of these people

Could you come in here and hear
these three little girls
speak of their parents
and their sisters
and their brothers
and their cousins
for being Palestinians?

Could you sit among these women
carrying photos of sons imprisoned
perhaps forever
whom they can’t visit
knowing their 11,000 add up
on the world’s scale
to less than the one
on the other side?

Could you look at this man
with the nice smile
but with no legs
that the forces that blew them off
have sealed the border shut
against wheelchairs
coming in?

Could you view these bullet-blasted holes
in wall after wall
or these piles of rubble:
concrete chunks with steel lines
projecting out
like a piece of the abstract art
of a madman?

Could you come here to Gaza
holding your eyes open
letting your ears channel in
the reality
which your plush life at home
denies you?

Could you do this,
and then walk back into those halls
and vote for more death and anguish?

are you more human
than that?

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