The Wall: A Poem From Working at an International Peace Camp
Last summer I worked at an international peace camp called Seeds of Peace which brings together youth from areas of conflict. I counseled a Middle Eastern bunk which gave me a lot of insight into the conflict between Israel and Palestine. This poem I wrote, below, reflects the stories they told me and how I remember the passion they showed when talking about their personal struggles.
In the first part of the poem I try to deal with Palestinian experience of being in an occupied state and going through the daily trials of being an under-recognized citizen. In the other half I try to tackle the young Israeli male perspective of growing up with the expectation of serving your country, but not knowing exactly what that means as 14 or 15 year old.
I don’t think my piece reflects the mindset of all Arabs and Jews in conflict, but I do feel it sheds some light on some of the issues overseas. I also feel that this piece adds perspective to the Muslim experience, which I feel is being misrepresented and often generalized in our media.
My summer was something I could never forget or replace, as these kids changed my heart and opened my eyes to another world then I was use to or could understand before that time. At the very least, this piece is my attempt to respect their voice and share their experience in living through their nation’s conflict.
He wrote a cry next to the bed he slept in It was a hand brushed painting to a foreign God I had never seen & although I didn’t know his full name Have the pronunciation to speak his tongue so beautifully Was the pain that wrote out from this sweet boy Pain. That's been pressed, checked, home raided & wedged between the spit in his words His life, compressed between the animalistic animosity against stacked bricks His people walk along in a dismal slump, their minds ablaze As the sun beat against them they became Moaning shadows inked on The Wall of stone Towering above them The roofied History Book The doped, dilated & fixed perspective of The All-Seeing Eye The Prophet I keep in my pocket The Coffin who is the only honest bill That wept fresh rain outside his bedroom window The raincoat his grandmother gave him Did not warm his heart from cold glares Of AK-47's on his way to school along the Gaza Trip
This thought wraps my head Like this sweet boy's Kafia I keep wrapped around my neck I swear it atones for the innocent bastard that is my heart I keep leaned up against this sweet boy’s worn out shoes All tangled up in soggy threads and muddy snow is Displaced matter, leaking out the clasped sides Like clothes on his bedroom floor
This sweet boy, his speech is blunt as the line he walks Parallel to the framed portraits he paints to God His grandmother told him that one day he would be king But he stares at the wall mirrored against the TV outside his bedroom window It drives him crazy wondering how such a presence can be so unreal A voice in his head telling him who to be But he can't place the voice to the face Who is a washed up icon with audio implants Who everyone seems so seemingly plugged into But he is tuned out Trying to listen for a few moments of truth But truth is told he will have to serve the wall like the TV Which he already sees through, he is wise this sweet boy He wants to be king Destined to be king, a king in his own right He is, destined to be someone’s soldier But this sweet boy doesn't want to sit on a throne or thorns
He always wondered why I woke him up so gently But screamed at him to get on his feet Well, I never wanted to startle his dreams I wanted him take them with him I only screamed so that he would go a little faster a little more quickly each day Maybe one day, he will reach the end of his people's prayers to God Who is a distant point along the wall he keeps trying to snatch These sweet boys who slept on opposite sides of a wall this summer Have a long road ahead of them
Photos courtesy of Eugene K. Butler