Alexander Gerst’s view of the rockets and explosions in Gaza from the International Space Station
The brightest stars are the first to explode. Also hearts. It is important to pay attention to love’s high voltage signs. The mockingbird is really ashamed of its own feeble song lost beneath all those he has to imitate. It’s true, the Carolina Wren caught in the bedroom yesterday died because he stepped on a glue trap and tore his wings off. Maybe we have both fallen through the soul’s thin ice already. Even Ethiopia is splitting off from Africa to become its own continent. Last year it moved 10 feet. This will take a million years. There’s always this nostalgia for the days when Time was so unreal it touched us only like the pale shadow of a hawk. Parmenedes transported himself above the beaten path of the stars to find the real that was beyond time. The words you left are still smoldering like the cigarette left in my ashtray as if it were a dying star. The thin thread of its smoke is caught on the ceiling. When love is threatened, the heart crackles with anger like kindling. It’s lucky we are not like hippos who fling dung at each other with their ridiculously tiny tails. Okay, that’s more than ten things I know. Let’s try twenty five, no, let’s not push it, twenty. How many times have we hurt each other not knowing? Destiny wears her clothes inside out. Each desire is a memory of the future. The past is a fake cloud we’ve pasted to a paper sky. That is why our dreams are the most real thing we possess. My logic here is made of your smells, your thighs, your kiss, your words. I collect stars but have no place to put them. You take my breath away only to give back a purer one. The way you dance creates a new constellation. Off the Thai coast they have discovered a new undersea world with sharks that walk on their fins. In Indonesia, a kangaroo that lives in a tree. Why is the shadow I cast always yours? Okay, let’s say I list 33 things, a solid symbolic number. It’s good to have a plan so we don’t lose ourselves, but then who has taken the ladder out of the hole I’ve dug for myself? How can I revive the things I’ve killed inside you? The real is a sunset over a shanty by the river. The keys that lock the door also open it. When we shut out each other, nothing seems real except the empty caves of our hearts, yet how arrogant to think our problems finally matter when thousands of children are bayoneted in the Congo this year. How incredible to think of those soldiers never having loved. Nothing ever ends. Will this? Byron never knew where his epic, Don Juan, would end and died in the middle of it. The good thing about being dead is that you don’t have to go through all that dying again. You just toast it. See, the real is what the imagination decants. You can be anywhere with the turn of a few words. Some say the feeling of out-of-the-body travel is due to certain short circuits in parts of the brain. That doesn’t matter because I’m still drifting towards you. Inside you are cumulous clouds I could float on all night. The difference is always between what we say we love and what we love. Tonight, for instance, I could drink from the bowl of your belly. It doesn’t matter if our feelings shift like sands beneath the river, there’s still the river. Maybe the real is the way your palms fit against my face, or the way you hold my life inside you until it is nothing at all, the way this plant droops, this flower called Heart’s Bursting Flower, with its beads of red hanging from their delicate threads any breeze might break, any word might shatter, any hurt might crush.
Dancing in the dark on Tuesday nights is my church.
History percolates in the face of the bewildered angel
holding a skull under one arm and blowing her apocalyptic
trumpet in the other. There are 40,000 sets of bones in
the shapes of chandeliers, columns, temples. I am thinking
of Jan Hus who used to practice being burned as a martyr,
and whose secret followers I imagine displayed here.
His bones are buried in the wind, his words spoken by
blind stars. None of the bones here remember what bodies
they belong to. It is a hard thing to realize that each of
the bones once loved as we do, and harder even to say it.
Vowels of wind brush across the windows. Hus’s words
and the words of the ground fog are the same words.
Huge snails climb up the sides of the church. The walls
are cracked like old skin. My own words have frayed edges.
Still, I can place you here in one sentence that tries to forget
all this death. There’s a mesh of pine trees trying to capture
some stray light. Here and there a prayer emerges between
inexplicable phrases. None of the bones are listening.
None of the bones remember the hush of insects. With each
death a new day, but the crickets sound the same, the shadows
disappear like yesterday’s shadows. These bones only wanted
to make a difference, not be a part of some grotesque figure.
Hus was burned for saying things not even these bones understand.
There’s a leisurely rain beginning. It doesn’t stop the tiny white
moths that have no idea of their own mortality. It doesn’t stop
the frantic crows from reminding us of our own bones as they
pick at the body of a mole. The light is turning into cobwebs.
The day seems distracted. What memory has in store for us
we never know. There’s a jar of earth here from Golgotha
some Abbot thought (1278) would make this ground sacred.
I am thinking of your own sacred garden. I am thinking of
your robins that rock on the telephone wires like men at prayer.
The air is here mottled with all these dreams. Above me
the swifts write a random history of the soul. Against them,
I put these words for you, a kind of prayer themselves,
a way to redeem the silences these bones announce, something
about the way we live our loves, forever on the verge of believing.
how you can never reach it, no matter how hard you try,
walking as fast as you can, but getting nowhere,
arms and legs pumping, sweat drizzling in rivulets;
each year, a little slower, more creaks and aches, less breath.
Ah, but these soft nights, air like a warm bath, the dusky wings
of bats careening crazily overhead, and you’d think the road
goes on forever. Apollinaire wrote, “What isn’t given to love
is so much wasted,” and I wonder what I haven’t given yet.
A thin comma moon rises orange, a skinny slice of melon,
so delicious I could drown in its sweetness. Or eat the whole
thing, down to the rind. Always, this hunger for more.
All the animals who show mercy on an ark,
a mercy without end in sight.
I did not love women as I do now.
I loved them with my eyes closed, my back turned.
I loved them silent, & startled, & shy.
The world was a dreamless slumber party,
sleeping bags like straitjackets spread out on
the living room floor, my face pressed into a
All night I woke to rain on the strangers’ windows.
No one remembered to leave a light on in the hall.
Someone’s father seemed always to be shaving.
When I stood up, I tried to tiptoe
around the sleeping bodies, their long hair
speckled with confetti, their faces blanched by the
I never knew exactly where the bathroom was.
I tried to wake the host girl to ask her, but she was
only one adrift in that sea of bodies. I was ashamed
to say they all looked the same to me, beautiful &
untouchable as stars. It would be years before
I learned to find anyone in the sumptuous,
Burned books from the collection of Gaza poet Othman Hussein. Photo by Maysoon Hussein.
According to family friends in the UK who spoke to The Electronic Intifada, the house, located in Shuka, an agricultural town east of Rafah, was hit by tank shells on Thursday, 17 July. The home was completely destroyed, although Hussein and his relations were able to escape harm.
Hiding among civilians by Richard Seymour
Hamas, they tell us, is cowardly and cynical.
Hiding among civilians.
They hid at the el-Wafa hospital. They hid at the beach, where children played football. They hid at the yard of 75 year old Muhammad Hamad. They hid among the residential quarters of Shujaya. They hid in the home of the poet, Othman Hussein. They hid in the thousands of houses damaged or destroyed. They hid in 84 schools and 23 medical facilities. They hid in a cafe, where Gazans were watching the World Cup. They hid in the ambulances trying to retrieve the injured.
Masters of disguise, they hid so well that no one ever found them. They hid themselves in a young woman in pink household slippers, sprawled on the pavement, taken down while fleeing. They hid themselves in the little boy whose parts were carried away by his father in a plastic shopping bag. They hid themselves in an elderly woman, lying in a pool of blood on a stone floor.
Hamas, they tell us, is cowardly and cynical.
They held up a stone.
I said, “Stone,”
Smiling they said, “Stone.”
They showed me a tree.
I said, “Tree.”
Smiling they said, “Tree.”
They shed a man’s blood.
I said, “Blood.”
Smiling, they said, “Paint.”
They shed a man’s blood.
I said, “Blood.”
Smiling, they said, “Paint.”
— Dannie Abse (adapted from the Hebrew of Amir Gilboa), 1982
Tribute to Mohammed, Ahed, Zakaria, and Mohammed Bakr, murdered by the IDF on a beach in Gaza while playing football, by artist Amir Schiby.
Yesterday I cried my eyes out in my office, sat at my desk frozen in front of a tab open to Facebook, because I didn’t know how to wish a happy 24th birthday to a friend in Gaza. Bombs raining down on her birthday. Everyone on her wall was wishing her a “safe birthday” so I did eventually too, writing to her and saying, I wish I could sit with you in my kitchen and bake a cake for you and make you tea. Hourly you and all in Gaza are in my prayers. She deserves so much more than just a safe birthday.
There are more of us aware and speaking out than there were in 2009, but still so many are silent. Still the world sits and helplessly watches the systematic murder of civilians. I read an Israeli woman on Facebook say all she can do is translate the names of the dead and recite them to honour them, and she asks that others do the same. I wonder as the death toll rises, does she feel tired reading and writing that long list, or is it all that is keeping her going. I feel raw and selfish in my tears. I keep thinking of those four little boys running on the beach in the sun. Of journalist Ayman Mohyeldin kicking a footy around with them minutes before the bombs hit them.
Too much empathy doesn’t help me sleep at night. It is hard at times like this when most of my comrades are somewhere else: other cities, other countries, not amongst my friends here. We reach out to each other online, because for me it is harder to find political care and solidarity in my small city, as blessed as I am with loving friends here. I think briefly, about going back to church. I think of my ancestry, Indigenous resistance and war. Of my tupuna tāne refusing to cede sovereignty.
Today I went to a girlfriend’s baby shower. Feasted and drank, breaking bread in celebration. Baby mamas and baby daddies and baby mamas to be. Touched the soft head of a 5 week old baby girl, held a nearly one year old girl, watched a brother and sister play Lego and fight, rubbed my friend’s pregnant belly. She is due close to my sister whose belly I don’t get to rub, because she too is far from me, in India. How I wish I could be there with her. A friend and mother of three with a newborn talks about missing her belly and says, “Sometimes you wish they were back in your belly where you could keep them safe.” How I long for this experience of motherhood, in a world where the horror sometimes overwhelms me. I came away from this healing time looking forward to welcoming these new babies into the world, and to keep working for peace for all children. Inshallah.