To Mohammed: three poems on Palestine

Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate.

Saeed Qaq APA images

To Mohammed

They arrested your brother today,
your youngest brother.
I remember you telling me
how the doctors come and the interrogators come
and they are all the same people
making sure not to break your body, but to bend it just enough.
You snapped a fag and poured the tobacco out on the table,
as you said it. Just three of us in the Calton Bar after Hogmanay.
We’d walked up the Gallowgate and I was cold
and struggling through a hangover. How to write
when I think of you in a cell since easter,
or drinking Buckfast in Palestine, laughing at my haircut.
You said everyone must resist in their own way
‘We cannot all be artists, we cannot all be fighters,
but the man that sweeps the street, he is resisting too.’
And the man who sits in prison.

The World Narrowed

The world narrowed to a single point.
The war, the wars, a single point.
The Iraq Palestine Gaza sexism occupation
all that blurred to nothing.
“My back is broken.” The last words Rachel Corrie ever said.
I dropped my phone
took her head in my hands to stabilize her spine.
Nearby the bulldozers and tanks were driving.
The land scraped clean of homes,
a steel wall instead.
The world, my world, narrowed to just four people.
I held Rachel’s head.
On her right and left Greg and Will knelt beside her,
three friends told her we loved her
how awesome she was
she was going to be ok.
I observed the thin skin around her eyes and ears blackening with blood
from the bleeding in her brain.
at that moment there were just four of us in the world,
and one was dying as we held her.
This is the detail in every statistic.
A world narrowed in.
People holding their loved ones
their soft flesh
the hard metals of war

From the words of my friend Alice Coy

Damascus Gate

I didn’t hear it in Jerusalem
at Damascus Gate
three bodies dropped a mile away
while we sat and ate

Falafel sandwiches in the heat,
before we walked to a house,
to see folk spat at
as the sun sank down.

Ramadan waited and soldiers fell in
mouths dripping
on the smooth yellow rock.
and as we walked Kate said

I’ll take the big one,
you take the little two.
And we stared at the whites of their eyes
and teeth. The brown of their shirts

and grey of their guns.
There are black mosques, green crescents,
Red kuffiyehs sprayed on every wall.
Red stands for liberation

for a brand new nation
filled with pilgrims and settlers.
And we passed through them: the soldiers
like ghosts, our tongues trapped,

our eyes holding on to souvenirs
pictures of the pope and jesus, T-shirts
that say “God Bless Israel.”
And around us just a market, flat breads

and pancakes stacked for sundown;
the excitement and hunger shaking
the thirst of the small dry places
through the old town.

The soldiers poured their bottles out
like rivers
And a small brown boy, taller than the wall,
threw a stone.


Henry Bell is a writer and editor living in Glasgow. His work has been published and produced in various places including Gutter Magazine, and at the Oran Mor. He is the editor of two anthologies: Tip Tap Flat, and A Bird is Not a Stone - an Anthology of Contemporary Palestinian Poetry. Twitter: @henbell