Homage: A Poem

Mary Geday, This Week in Palestine, 19 April 2006

I’m a teacher. My students are
Lollypops, different colours, but all
Taste the same. Red can’t pay for
School. I offered to help. He wouldn’t
Accept. He’s home in Jenin – “don’t want to be
Talked to or heard.” Blue was called for
Interrogations by the greens on his way to
Work. He hasn’t received his pay
Since last September. I think
He’s barely hanging with his threads, his teeth
Unsettled by the mounds of crushed
Chickpeas, mountainous on a very poor sandwich.
Yellow was in prison all through November
And lost his job in consequence. He had to be
Replaced. Replacements, he told me, are not
Hard to find. I try to write
About other things. Writers. People who
Came before us and gave us heather misguided in the petal’s
Growth. But I’m a teacher, dusting off reluctant drops of ink on stiff sheets of lined Paper.

Purple knows she’ll get beaten
If she fails the course.
Her husband doesn’t care about her
Lumpy breast tipping
Sideways like three scoops of vanilla
On a weary cone.
His mother won’t have her
In school and that’s that. White
Is green with fear. 13 brothers and
Sisters. She’ll get her degree by hook or
Crook and raise them all to work
In an oily room of meat and fries
Until the soldiers are tipped
Off and the ID card discovered.
Orange is on the lookout. On the lookout
For anything. To get him out of here. I
Told him I’d help him get away, just
Like I did. I hope he comes back, like I
Did. I hope. Maybe I hope.
His two uncles are exiled. His father
Locked up for three years now, the greens won’t let him
Visit with wife or sons. He made me a
Ring Ã?â?? four colours beaded
And shimmering in the sleeping light. A
Triangle accosted
By two parallels
Separated by useless white.
These are my students, battered brains kneaded with iron knuckles
Into a pan the size of my notebook. They drop their ink on my
Only sheet of paper.

Mary Geday is a teacher at Birzeit University

Hani Zu’rob was born in 1976, in Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Today he finds temporary refuge in Ramallah teaching art at the Friends School and holding the post of Artistic Director at the Young Artist Forum.

Your Two Piasters: