for the nawajah clan, and others
in the south hebron hills the slanted hills
recall old songs, and the women collect
them like rain. the men have two-syllable
names—'azzam, yūsuf, khaled, nasser—each
name (from their fathers and their grandfathers
before) a dark foot binding them to the
land. they tend sheep and honour the resistance
a windpipe gives a blade. when the machine
arrives with its yellow claw, the clan sings
thalāthīn nijmah—a love song
for the hills. khaled's throat is a dry well.
if he could split his tongue in two, he would
stake half in the earth and tend a singing
tree, a slim upward band of green with fresh
water from places they knew. now they camp,
and memory is an urgent neighbour.
but just as hope seems severed from hope, one
amongst them lifts the shabbābah—the old
six-holed flute severed from pvc pipe.
feet spring up on fevered earth: ten pairs of
hands are clapping, and sara nawajah
at seventy is dancing, the slim green
band at her waist turning circles with her.
see the embroidered white cloth streaming from
behind her head a flag in the absence
of olive branches? see their jaunty
shadows, long in afternoon's light, knocking
upon a fence, asking it for a dance.