Tuesday, August 5, 2014

In a Place That Used To Be (Poem)

In a Place That Used To Be

In Provence, the lavender cutting
has begun. Golden bands of wheat
rim the purple steppes, secreting
the tunneling vipers nestling below
the swathes of undulating mauve.

In Rafah, shrapnel shreds a child's
basket of biscuits. Unwrapped sweets
are never tasted. In the West Bank,
the olive trees refuse to bear more
fruit. Every day another mountain falls.

Gaza's fishermen scour shells and sand,
ceding the sea nothing but resistance
to mourning's unnatural scents. The bellies
of the donkeys grow big in Khuza'a.

A scientist who believed in peace dies
with his brother Muneer in a car marked
UNRWA, his three PhDs no protection
in that place that used to be.

With every strike another stumbles,
another scores, the odds unmatched
and scorned. Pockets of blue gold spill
new patterns on brightly woven rugs.

© 2014 Maureen E. Doallas

Lavender is called the "blue gold" of Provence. (My thanks to Deborah Lawrenson whose August 2 blog post about lavender harvests inspired this poem.) 

Lavender, long a medicinal herb, is symbolic of peace and purity; the mounting of it in crosses on doors is considered a holy safeguard against evil. Snakes hide in the shade of the plants. The Biblical implications are profound.

Khuza'a is in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. It was devastated during recent bombings.

The scientist to whom the poem refers is Dr. Bashir al-Hajjar, age 47, an assistant professor of nursing at Islamic University of Gaza who studied at Manchester University in the United Kingdom.  He died instantly when the UNRWA-marked car in which he was traveling was struck. His brother, age 38, also died (some articles list the brother's name as Samir); his son was critically injured. (Read Manchester Evening News article.)


Peggy Rosenthal said...

Maureen, THANK YOU for writing this poem imaging the massacre of the people of Gaza. I'm glued to the horrible news (mostly via The Guardian online), numb with disbelief that this is going on and so few people are paying attention. The attention your poem gives is priceless.

Britton Swingler said...

Words fail this time...but emotions in tact. Beautifully sad.

Deborah said...

Bravo, Maureen! It really is all about making connections, felt not said. Your poem is as complex and intricate as the situation.