Helmi saying farewell, 1

For me, it is still the most memorable single image of the war. It showed a young Palestinian father kissing his dead baby son goodbye. He was murmuring farewells to his boy and I defy anyone to view it and not be profoundly moved. J. Bowen, "Bowen Diary: A Father's Loss," BBC News, Jan 23/09

The journalist says 
they have no names:
that father in his grief, 
the young child
in the stillness of sleep,
final, deep. 

The father's kiss 
says farewell,
final, forever like gun salutes
for the dead aborted. 

Helmi, this is you.

And is all yours.

It is the crouched image 
that makes you weep
allowing each tear 
to tear you apart
the son in his father''s arms
the tenderness of years to be lost
lingering long and endless 
in the mind's eye, 
father as you are to your memory
to the children of your young love
in all these times of wars and more.   

Your son stays calm, 
dead to the pain 
eyes closed but seeing all
as if in peace and listening 
to your entreaties
saying in silence, 
talking back, father, father
give me your kiss that blesses. 

The journalist says he could 
not look in the seeing, 
such dazed dialogues dazzling
in their hopelessness
despairing with the sputtering 
of blood on the edges
of your fears. 

For how can it be that here
in this land where God walked, 
this sacred quiet of earth
that makes us pray 
slide to hide in drunken nooks
we could not reach, 
or our fainting voices, still now
in the cadaverous image before us 
you saying goodbye 
to a dead child, yours,
flesh of your own flesh, 
and you speaking
in the desolate 
and lonely language 
we can never ever know between
a father that lives that is you
and a son that dies on your cradling

in the name of country, faith, nation

in the name of the place that demands

in the name of life that kills

so much of the warm blood for the rituals
whose other name is the relentlessness
of our grief taking hold on our words
and our power to say our prayers,

how can it be, how can it be? 

The journalist of our sorrows
reminds us of this memorandum
of truth: we cannot cage this freedom
we yearn, including this lamentation
that leads us to what pain offers. 

This you know, Helmi, this you know.

He will bury him, the son,
and the him is the you that rages on
your throat the parched fields
of roses and tulips bereft of breeze or rain
you digging the small earth for him
with the bare knuckles of fingers
and the sorrow in your heaving chest
that volcano erupting while you busy
yourself with the thought of his tomb 
unearthing a shallow hole, small 
for your child-son's place of dwelling
his body going back to the land you crave
this land you love no less
this sad land accepting accepting your gift. 

Now they have a name:

Helmi for the gravemaker,

Mohammed for the tomb owner

in Gaza, in this Gaza
the capital city of the skeletons
of dreams, holy, biblical, 
ugly dreams.  

A. Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI/Jan 25/09

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