Areej–the Scent of Youth and Death

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Your name still wafts through
          Alleys and centuries of stone with
                    Which old Hebron Khalil the Compassionate
Wraps itself.
          No mercy there
Only settlers strutting
          Gloating in the knowledge that the siege,
                    Barbed wire and curfew,
                             Encircle only you
                                       And yours
For theirs is the space
Erased from the law
          A blank page stained with
                    Spilled blood and scribbles of insanity        
While yours is the youth and blood spilled what 
          Wanton abandon seeping
                    Almost, almost unnoticed, into crevices   
Where memory almost sleeps.
 
(In Hebron, an 18-year-old woman died, caught in the crossfire)
 
You almost finished high school, with
          Your unwritten certificate, a pass 
Safe passage through a different siege, instead,
A bland testimonial of blind death groping obscene 
          Bullets, how many, penetrating virgin flesh
                    Untouched, violated now unseen,
The evil of anonymous listings, Areej, shall not 
          Rob you of that which is yours: the thick
                    Long lashes, ruddy cheeks, lips full of unkissed
                             Promises (You should be happy, child, your
                                       Mother said, no need for blush, mascara 
Or fake vanities). I saw you,
Face made up, wrapped in your coffin, not my
(Or your mothers) arms. 
Artificial death. Its ugliness left no mark,
                             (Your hair a glossy mainno head wounds
                                       Discerned.)
 
The neighbors boy was smitten. Averting your
          Eyes, Areej, you sensed his urgent
                    Need, modesty prevailed,
                    The promise postponed,
Blessed are the pure.
The soldier boy obsessed with the kill
(Have you become an etched x on the nozzle of his gun?)
 Perhaps his first?
Daughter, heir, of ancient Abraham, your Hebron
          Dowry is heavy, pregnant with history and horror.
 
What exchange of fire caught you? Trapped, you cast a
          Glance of anger, perhaps a look of contempt
                    (Disdain does not become you)
          He fired back a bullet, and you’re
                    Eighteen forever,
                             Frozen, your moment of immortality
                                       Captured, as you, caught by surprise,
Wondered, for an unrepentant second, is this all?
                             Is this it?
And he, an instant murderer, let out a breath
                             This is it.
Unrepentant, forever branded, 
His nameless victim eternally engraved
          Within what makes him what he is,
          What he will always be.
Although your eyes had never met, he wears
          The stench of death, and you the 
                    Scent of youth.
                             Indivisible.
 
Areej, the fragrance of wild flowers
          Wafting through the hills of Hebron, yours
                    Is no abstract death
And mine is no impersonal sorrow. Your
          Mother has granted me the right to share 
                    Her grief a mother too
                             In the heart of bereaved Jerusalem.
                                       Lamentations.
No, no wedding ululations,
False courage before cowardly death,
Forging endings way before
          Time, and your breasts, have ripened.
You will not learn, Areej, the full
          Fact of your death,
                    Nor he.
But we do, and shall.
Forgive me for not letting it pass
          Unnoticed, hovering in numbers,
                    Headlines, and withering wreaths.
Forgive me for letting it
          Come to pass, unwittingly, like a sidelined
                    Chorus of fate in the face of tragic choice.
(It was not mine to make, nor yours,
          But years ago, someone signed a pact that sealed your
                    Fate, and made the choice for both).
 
Have you found your peace, Areej?
One chance after the last chance
          Found you unprepared, unadorned,
                    Your guilt an unforgivable innocence 
Immersed in hope, freedom within your grasp.
   
Is yours the ultimate iniquity of natural
Life before unnatural death? Of daring?
          Humming a tune to yourself while hanging
                    Laundry on the roof to dry? The sharp
                    Pain of a loose clothes-pin drawing a drop of blood?
The gaze cast over roof-tops, a daydream
 Of college or the boy next door? 
Too early, too late, daughter of Palestine,
          Time cast you into misplaced peace
                    Into a realm of almost
                             Dreams 
And the sin of unfinished
          Chores
As magnificently mundane
As the flag that enfolded you.
                    As ritualistic as a mothers incantation,
A prayer for the innocents: Lead us not into
                    Heroism for the pain of a child,
                             The death of a child, is anguish beyond
                                       Comprehension.
It is done. It is undone. It is not done.    

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