By David Wylder X
This is one project in my continuing performance of the role of writer and artist within society. It is for my friends, family, and to ALL OF HUMANITY AND ANYONE WHO WILL LISTEN about nothing less than THE MYSTERIOUS EXPERIENCE OF LIFE ON EARTH.
AND SO THE STORY GOES. . .
How much you risk is how much you win or lose
but how much you love is how much you learn.
Why did you go?
Because I wanted to see Rafah again,
because I still believe in peace
although there are times of fighting
to which we can see no end. . .
(and what the hell, maybe I fell in love.)
Anyway I don’t have what it takes
to bring a child’s bicycle to Gaza:
few people do
otherwise Gaza would be full of children’s bicycles–
No, we left the little bike with the bent training wheel
and one missing pedal
under the frozen stars of a london night
laughing until there was no more cold. . .
I thought the rubber bullet was an olive
when I saw it lying in the orchard.
THE HOUSE IS FULL OF HOLES
“What is human nature?” He asked rhetorically.
“Look around you,” He continued, “Everything that people are doing, this
is human nature.”
The IDEA was to go and live among THE PEOPLE
and listen to the buzz and hum of their talking
to car horns and dishwashing and footsteps and grind
to the laughter, arguments, and crying children
of their LIVING,
until it became possible to hear the RHYTHM and MUSIC
within, underlying, all of this
and to write songs of THE PEOPLE LIVING.
I returned to another narrow street
lined with concrete housing blocks saturated by poverty and trauma
ground-floor falafel stands too small for furniture
lit-up portraits of posturing fighters, rifles on display
like low-budget home-grown ‘Join the Army’ ads–
except that everyone knows the men in the pictures are dead– hung
from archways spanning alleys where children play football or burn
Oh refugee poverty under occupation
I walk your streets again a foreign white-faced man
and see how my eyes and mind have aged–
I have mortgaged my AMERICAN birthright again
for airplane tickets and taxi fare
to come and live briefly in an Arab ghetto
which, like all ghettos, is constantly under attack–
The saga of occupation is written with refugee spraypaint on concrete walls
and punctuated with gunshots and bulletholes.
The boys in the street say they are 20 but look 14
they put their arms around each other and say they are fighters
one pulls out a cheap little switchblade with a plastic handle
says, “How do you like this?”
his eyes go wild like a street cat–
“No thank you,” we say, and walk away.
Then the foreign soldiers come in the night
drive jeeps into Balata refugee camp,
which is built atop the ruins of a 4,000 year old city–
They shoot their M-16s, break into a house,
and haul another Arab to jail.
In the village the Patriarchs walk over limestone hills
worn smooth by a million footsteps
and remember the days before their was a nation called Israel or
settlers in single-wide trailers with high-power security lights
over there, across the valley, lighting up the desert night
in bright electric pools of paranoia–
They wear suit jackets over traditional robes
and the Matriarchs bake bread over the embers of sheep-dung fires and
everyone praises god in conversational litany:
Thanks to Allah there is sun, thanks to Allah there is rain
Thanks to Allah there are olive trees, thanks to Allah there are sheep
Thanks to Allah there are houses, thanks to Allah there is food
Everything is from Allah!
Then the settlers come in the night with saws
and cut down olive trees in the village orchard.
The wound on Ibrahim’s ankle, left by a soldier’s bullet years ago,
has healed and grown into a thick mass of scar tissue
and a lingering ache–
He wraps it with a threadbare ace bandage
his dusty feet in a pair of work boots made into sandals
by cutting off the back part down to the sole.
East Jerusalem at this hour is a desolation of paving stones
chiseled with irregular divots for better traction
Orange streetlight haze over retro-fit electical conduits
snaking over and into 500-year-old stone walls–
The women have gone inside the houses
a few men stand in groups and pairs smoking in the shadows
or closing down the last restaurants and shops–
At the quiet coffee stand the man with a cleft upper lip
invites you to sit in a plastic chair in an alley
and the boy makes the coffee in a long-handled metal pot–
And the hustlers on this side of town are right out on the street
in your face interrupting you in mid-sentence
with the hustler voice that grinds and slices into your brain–
“TAXI TAXI! You want taxi! Where you go!
TAXI TAXI TAXI!!!” Nerve shattering as a TV commercial.
They were friendly and wanted to help
but could not speak the language
so we filled their mouths with sweet tea and bread.
I have nothing to say about Jerusalem,
except that it is where a lion-faced tomcat paused on limestone steps and
peered into my eyes for 3 minutes.
Jerusalem is ancient and exhausted from religious wars.
You can read a fanatical text written in blood
on the Old City’s fortress walls
but it ain’t worth the effort–
if you want to see the cruel face of GOD
stare directly into the sun for 1 hour.
Everything that could have been said about Jerusalem
someone has already said.
Everything that can be said about Jerusalem
Someone is now saying.
Everything that it will ever be possible to say about Jerusalem
Someone will say soon enough.
The man behind the counter at the art supply store says:
“Jerusalem is a most holy place for 3 great world religions
Christianity Islam Judaism
GOD made it that way for a reason
so if people are fighting over it
this is because of money and politics.”
A damn fool or a wise man came here one time
and scratched these words in the dirt:
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE JEWS THE MUSLIMS AND THE CHRISTIANS
IS THE STYLE OF THEIR HATS.