In the middle of all of this
just for a moment
can we stop to talk about the thirteen year old boy’s legs
still covered in thin hairs that have not grown long
enough to be coarse against the soldier’s palms,
their softness unnoticed by the
machine-gun callouses of the soldier’s hands
mangling the slender legs,
stripping them of their cheap jeans,
lifting them like kindling
from the floor of the army jeep,
splaying them apart so that even as he writhes in pain,
his legs battered by the soldier clad in
layers of fibers crafted by modern technology
to protect against weather, flames, the dust
of the earth, even as the Palestinian boy writhes
in pain on the floor, he tries to fold onto himself
as the soldier spreads his matchstick legs apart
an animal fear awakened in the boy of what a predator
might want to crush next,
can we just take a moment
to ask: if this boy somehow
lives, what will his legs have to carry
as they grow and the hair on them
thickens to barbed wire?
what weight will he lift each time he walks?

Palestinian children face a profound threat every single day that they live under Israeli military occupation. Soldiers, many of them only a few years away from their own boyhood and steeped in increasingly vitriolic anti-Palestinian rhetoric and deep fear of the other, patrol their neighborhoods, stand by idle or participate as extremist settlers taunt and harass the children on their way to school, and often engage with Palestinian children with ferocious violence. Israeli laws are constantly being changed to allow for the detention by armed soldiers of younger and younger children. Palestinian bodies are under constant threat. This violence is one aspect of an ongoing Nakba that Palestinians have endured for decades, a project of erasure that leaves no human being, olive tree, or square meter of land unscathed.

About the Author

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha – is an American poet of Palestinian, Jordanian, and Syrian heritage. Lena’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in journals including Lunch Ticket, Monarch, The Lake for Poetry, The Taos Journal for International Poetry and Art, James Franco Review, Mizna, Borderlands: Texas Review and Sukoon. She is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, for her poems “Immigrant” (2015) and “Middle Village” (2016). Several of her poems have been anthologized; most recently, her poem “Running Orders,” published in Letters to Palestine: American Writers Respond to War and Occupation, by Verso Press and “Seafaring Nocturne,” published in Gaza Unsilenced by Just World Books. She is an MFA candidate at Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writing Workshop. Her first book of poems, Water & Salt, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press.

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