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Lady, I am staring into your eyes,
in front of everyone.
I see your beauty covered with your sorrow.
I see the real you throughout the words they say.
I see the blooming Jasmin behind your bitter cactus.

Whether they like it or not, I will touch you,
I will touch you and touch you with my mind,
until you get out of the cave of your pain,
and smile to me before them all!

Mohammed Arafat
I fell in love with a girl whose name is the name of the most beautiful shrub that has white flowers with a yummy smell. This poem is dedicated to her.
This Distant Light
by Walid Khazindar
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Bitterly cold,
winter clings to the naked trees.

If only you would free
the bright sparrows
from your fingertips
and release a smile―that shy, tentative smile―
from the imprisoned anguish I see.

Sing! Can we not sing
as if we were warm, hand-in-hand,
sheltered by shade from a sweltering sun?

Can you not always remain this way,
stoking the fire: more beautiful than expected, in reverie?

Darkness increases and we must remain vigilant
since this distant light is our sole consolation ...
this imperiled flame, which from the beginning
has constantly flickered,
in danger of going out.

Come to me, closer and closer.
I don't want to be able to tell my hand from yours.
And let's stay awake, lest the snow smother us.

Walid Khazindar was born in Gaza City. He is considered to be one of the very best Palestinian poets; his poetry has been said to be "characterized by metaphoric originality and a novel thematic approach unprecedented in Arabic poetry." He was awarded the first Palestine Prize for Poetry in 1997. Keywords/Tags: Arabic, translation, Arab, Palestine, Palestinian, Gaza, distant, light, flame, fire, autumn, winter, trees, birds, sparrows, fingertips, smile, sing, shade, sun, fire, darkness, hand, hands, snow
For a Palestinian Child, with Butterflies
by Michael R. Burch

Where does the butterfly go ...
when lightning rails ...
when thunder howls ...
when hailstones scream ...
when winter scowls ...
when nights compound dark frosts with snow ...
where does the butterfly go?

Where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill,
beyond the capacity of moonlight to fill?
When the only relief’s a banked fire’s glow,
where does the butterfly go?

And where shall the spirit flee
when life is harsh, too harsh to face,
and hope is lost without a trace?
Oh, when the light of life runs low,
where does the butterfly go?

Published by Tucumcari Literary Review, Romantics Quarterly, Poetry Life & Times, Victorian Violet Press (where it was nominated for a “Best of the Net”), The Contributor (a Nashville homeless newspaper), Siasat (Pakistan), and set to music as a part of the song cycle “The Children of Gaza” which has been performed in various European venues by the Palestinian soprano Dima Bawab. Keywords/Tags: butterfly, children, storm, lightning, thunder, hailstones, snow, frost, night, shelter, comfort, safety, rose, fire, warmth, Holocaust, Nakba, Gaza, Trail of Tears, slavery, injustice, abuse, ethnic cleansing, genocide
Such Tenderness
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers of Gaza

There was, in your touch, such tenderness—as
only the dove on her mildest day has,
when she shelters downed fledglings beneath a warm wing
and coos to them softly, unable to sing.

What songs long forgotten occur to you now—
a babe at each breast? What terrible vow
ripped from your throat like the thunder that day
can never hold severing lightnings at bay?

Time taught you tenderness—time, oh, and love.
But love in the end is seldom enough ...
and time?—insufficient to life’s brief task.
I can only admire, unable to ask—

what is the source, whence comes the desire
of a woman to love as no God may require?

Keywords/Tags: Gaza, mothers, touch, tenderness, dove, shelter, wing, coos, sings, babies, fledglings, love, god
Frail Envelope of Flesh
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of Gaza

Frail envelope of flesh,
lying cold on the surgeon’s table
with anguished eyes
like your mother’s eyes
and a heartbeat weak, unstable ...

Frail crucible of dust,
brief flower come to this—
your tiny hand
in your mother’s hand
for a last bewildered kiss ...

Brief mayfly of a child,
to live two artless years!
Now your mother’s lips
seal up your lips
from the Deluge of her Tears ...

Note: The phrase "frail envelope of flesh" was one of my first encounters with the power of poetry, although I read it in a superhero comic book as a young boy (I forget which one). More than thirty years later, the line kept popping into my head, so I wrote this poem. I have dedicated it to the mothers and children of Gaza and the Nakba. The word Nakba is Arabic for "Catastrophe."

Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

For a Palestinian Child, with Butterflies
by Michael R. Burch

Where does the butterfly go
when lightning rails,
when thunder howls,
when hailstones scream,
when winter scowls,
when nights compound dark frosts with snow ...
Where does the butterfly go?

Where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill
beyond the capacity of moonlight to fill?
When the only relief's a banked fire's glow,
where does the butterfly go?

And where shall the spirit flee
when life is harsh, too harsh to face,
and hope is lost without a trace?
Oh, when the light of life runs low,
where does the butterfly go?

Such Tenderness
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers of Gaza

There was, in your touch, such tenderness—as
only the dove on her mildest day has,
when she shelters downed fledglings beneath a warm wing
and coos to them softly, unable to sing.

What songs long forgotten occur to you now—
a babe at each breast? What terrible vow
ripped from your throat like the thunder that day
can never hold severing lightnings at bay?

Time taught you tenderness—time, oh, and love.
But love in the end is seldom enough ...
and time?—insufficient to life’s brief task.
I can only admire, unable to ask—

what is the source, whence comes the desire
of a woman to love as no God may require?

Keywords/Tags: Frail, envelope, flesh, Gaza, Palestinian, children, mothers, tiny, hand, kiss, mayfly, deluge, tears, epitaph, grave, butterflies
who, US?
by Michael R. Burch

jesus was born
a palestinian child
where there’s no Room
for the meek and the mild

... and in bethlehem still
to this day, lambs are born
to cries of “no Room!”
and Puritanical scorn ...

under Herod, Trump, Bibi
their fates are the same —
the slouching Beast mauls them
and WE have no shame:

“who’s to blame?”

What is happening to Palestinian children in Gaza and the West Bank is a crime against humanity, financed by American taxpayer dollars. Keywords/Tags: Palestine, Palestinian, children, Gaza, West Bank, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jesus, Christ, meek, mild, lamb, lambs, kids, Herod, Trump, Bibi, slouching, Beast, American, Christians, shame, blame
She is supposed to get to live to enjoy life
Her birth is in war
with no baby clothing available
but a blanket and a pillow

Her mother screams
higher than loud booms around
higher than the voices of politicians
It hurts to give birth during wars

She is in a tent
donated by good people
who don’t believe in war
but in love

Her little world is a war
The skies are dark and grey
and a lot stands in her way
not only this war

She joins her mother’s cries
wrapped with the grey blanket
Cries of rockets heard as well
emigrants from other tents cry too

Fear breaks into her tent
Smoke coming out of the tent
mixed with cries, screams, and wails
The tent shakes
The tent collapses

Her mattress is rubbles
Her blanket is ash
Her cries gone in vain
Just like humanity
Silence!
Many babies don't expect to come to this life to start it in war, but they do.
Something
―for the children of the Holocaust and the Nakba
by Michael R. Burch

Something inescapable is lost—
lost like a pale vapor curling up into shafts of moonlight,
vanishing in a gust of wind toward an expanse of stars
immeasurable and void.

Something uncapturable is gone—
gone with the spent leaves and illuminations of autumn,
scattered into a haze with the faint rustle of parched grass
and remembrance.

Something unforgettable is past—
blown from a glimmer into nothingness, or less,
which finality swept into a corner, where it lies
in dust and cobwebs and silence.

It was my honor and privilege to work with survivors of the Holocaust and Hiroshima on translations of their poems and accounts into English. What they have told us is unutterably sad, and saddest of all is hearing about the lives of children being full of horror and terror, only to be cut short. Unfortunately today Palestinian children in Gaza and the West Bank are experiencing something similar, a modern Trail of Tears ...
Mohammed Arafat Nov 2019
It’s dimmed outside.
Birds come back to nets with empty corps,
but with a lot of warmth and compassion.
Their hatchlings and fledglings will sleep hungry tonight.
I can hear their birdsongs though.
Strong wind blows,
across the yard,
and all around the cosy nests.
High deciduous trees rustle,
shuddering me.
Withered dry leaves fall,
reminding me of those humans falling every day,
without saying goodbye to their final autumn,
in my homeland,
in Palestine.

Mohammed Arafat
Nobember 20th, 2019
Sometimes the only thing you can do for your people suffering every day is writing a poem.
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