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Hadeel's Song

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi

Some words are hard to pronounce—
He-li-cop-ter is most vexing
(A-pa-che or Co-bra is impossible)
But how it can stand still in the sky
I cannot understand—
What holds it up
What bears its weight
(Not clouds, I know)
It sends a flashing light—so smooth--
It makes a deafening sound
The house shakes
(There are holes in the wall by my bed)
And I have a hard time sleeping
(I felt ashamed when I wet my bed, but no one scolded me).

plane—a word much easier to say—
It flies, tayyara,
My mother told me
A word must have a meaning
A name must have a meaning
Like mine,
(Hadeel, the cooing of the dove)
Tanks, though, make a different sound
They shudder when they shoot
Dabbabeh is a heavy word
As heavy as its meaning.

Hadeel—the dove—she coos
Tayyara—she flies
Dabbabeh—she crawls
My Mother—she cries
And cries and cries
My Brother—Rami—he lies
And lies and lies, his eyes
Hit by a bullet in the head
(bullet is a female lead—rasasa—she kills,
my pencil is a male lead—rasas—he writes)

What’s the difference between a shell and a bullet?
(What’s five-hundred-milli-meter-
Or eight-hundred-milli-meter-shell?)
Numbers are more vexing than words—
I count to ten, then ten-and-one, ten-and-two
But what happens after ten-and-ten,
How should I know?
Rami, my brother, was one
Of hundreds killed—
They say thousands are hurt,
But which is more
A hundred or a thousand (miyyeh or alf)
I cannot tell—
So big--so large--so huge—
Too many, too much.

Palestine—Falasteen—I’m used to,
It’s not so hard to say,
It means we’re here—to stay--
Even though the place is hard
On kids and mothers too
For soldiers shoot
And airplanes shell
And tanks boom
And tear gas makes you cry
(Though I don’t think it’s tear gas that makes my mother cry)
I’d better go and hug her
Sit in her lap a while
Touch her face (my fingers wet)
Look in her eyes
Until I see myself again
A girl within her mother’s sight.
If words have meaning, Mama,
What is Is-ra-el?
What does a word mean
if it is mixed
with another—
If all soldiers, tanks, planes and guns are
What are they doing here
In a place I know
In a word I know—(Palestine)
In a life that I no longer know?

Hanan Ashrawi


November 11, 2000

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