“On the brink of…”

On the brink of

tears, sanity and war,

I feel powerless, hope

less and less than alive.

What do we tell young

people? How do we say, “…your

voice means nothing to those

who think life is about power

over others and greed?” And where

is it safe to think for yourself and try

real hard to not want to hurt nobody?

I don’t want to hurt nobody, God knows.

In Iraq, children are looking towards

the night sky with fear, as though

there were no stars, only bombs in the cosmos.

And they are afraid of the earth because

they can count the cancers in their

hoods now, where once there were none.

And how do I tell American youth

that popular culture means nothing to

justice and everything to keeping them

numb to the world? And how do I

scream when I have no voice left?

And who will answer these questions for me?

Not Rachel Corrie. She is dead.

And no matter what any army says,

I have seen the photos

and that woman was wearing orange,

bright and alive one minute and dying

under rubble the next. Even I, it seems, have

developed a callousness to the deaths of

Palestinians, because the murder of this white

girl from Olympia, Washington has

my heart breaking and my blood faint.

Something like ten Palestinians have been killed since

yesterday, when a Caterpillar bulldozer driven

by a man demolished the home that was her body.

If anyone knows her family, please relay

to them my grief and my sorrow.

You can still find her phone number

on the Internet for meetings and organizing. You

can still read her accounts of being in Palestine.

She was a good writer.

There are people who are writing,

“She should not have been there in the first place”

Now she is dead.

“Good riddance”

Now she is dead.

“Treasonous bitch”

Now she is dead.

What do I tell young people about non-violence when they can see

for themselves

how even orange bright and megaphone loud

and cameras and US citizenship will

not stop your murder?

I recall the days black boys were lynched

and dismembered for looking at white women,

now tax dollars are crushing dissent

wherever it blooms.

Human shields for human targets.

There are words I am taking back. I reclaim them

and will no longer allow anyone to dictate my language.

There is no “right wing” a wing is of nature, and murder

may be human, but it is not natural,

even if animals eat each other,

is that what we are then, animals?

If so, claim it, motherfucker.

There is no “mother of all bombs”.

Blair, Sharon, Bush, all have

mothers and no matter what they do, there is

something they love.

White power, oil, the need to be God’s

only chosen, whatever, but they love something, because

their mothers loved them.

A bomb loves nothing, has no mother and

is not about life.

There is no mother of all bombs,

only more mankind self-destruction.

There is no safety in being a bully. I know

because I have been bullied and I know now,

with my first grey hair and all, that authentic

power is not about others but about self.

This is not a poem. This is not a threat.

This is a promise.

God has a better imagination

than all of us combined and I do not

know what form retribution will take, but

I have seen karma happen and it will

again, and when it does I will chant

the names of the innocent and I will stand

with those who have kept their hands clean of blood

and their hearts clear of hate.

It is hard not to hate right now. But I

have been loved, I have loved and I know

that those who de-humanize their enemy are

only doing so to themselves.

Peace work is justice work is God’s work.

Rachel Corrie wrote,

“Nevertheless, I think about the fact that no
amount of reading, attendance at conferences,
documentary viewing and word of mouth could have
prepared me for the reality of the situation here.
You just can’t imagine it unless you see it, and even
then you are always well aware that your experience
is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the
Israeli Army would face if they shot an unarmed US
citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy water
when the army destroys wells, and, of course, the fact
that I have the option of leaving. Nobody in my family
has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher
from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown.
I have a home. I am allowed to go see the ocean.”

She is dead now. And the ocean

will miss her gaze. Palestine will miss

her heart, but mostly her family will

miss her breath.

And the president of the United States of America

(when did that happen again?) has all

but declared war on Iraq, and so more deaths are


What do I tell young people about any thing?

Especially humanity and morality.

Slightly a month before her murder Rachel wrote home,

“Many people want their voices to be heard, and I
think we need to use some of our privilege as
internationals to get those voices heard directly in
the US, rather than through the filter of well-meaning
internationals such as myself. I am just beginning to
learn, from what I expect to be a very intense tutelage,
about the ability of people to organize against all odds,
and to resist against all odds.”

More words I reclaim: Hero, Brave, Soldier.

This young woman did the un-thinkable,

she did not blink, did not half-step, did not back

down in the face of death. What greater odds than

one lone female frame against a destructive


What greater story to tell?

On the brink of war, may our power

come from the people Rachel Corrie was murdered

defending. On the brink of war, may our hope

come from one another. On the

brink of — wait — this is not a war.

On the brink of whatever new-fangled

imperialist project this is, may Rachel Corrie

live in our resistance, in our pursuit

of justice, and in the spirit of sisterhood.

On the brink of war, may we remember how divine

human beings can be.

— Suheir Hammad

Suheir Hammad is a Palestinian-American poet living in New York City.