UNTITLED: A POEM

Elizabeth Welliver (Westminster, Maryland)

You can bomb the grape and olive farmers off their land of their great-great-great ancestors, you can build walls around their sheep pastures to kill their livelihood, you can plant foreign pines over the rubble that burn in forest fires, you can say you made the desert bloom,

You can strip the truth of Arab histories from the textbooks, you can take the teachers from their classrooms, you can build prisons designed to torture children, you can tell their neighbors they are to be enemies, you can put machine guns in the hands of seventeen-year-olds and turn them into monsters, you can call the children riding their bikes a threat to public safety,

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You can fund innovation of bombs and guns and cameras to export across the world, you can build a wall ten meters high to keep out the refugees, you can call your mission 'security,'
You can take the water and the light from the houses where the people remain, you can destroy the roads and the fields to build segregated communities, you can build fancy buildings on land of bones and ashes, 

You can beat the elderly as they pray in the holiest mosque, you can cancel surgeries and cancer treatments for patients with no access to electricity, you can bomb neighborhoods and let people suffocate with no way out but the sea, 

You can steal children in the night and beat them in front of their parents, you can tear families apart who share blood ties on opposite sides of the wall, you can steal the bodies of those who die behind bars and never let their families rest,

You can surround the refugee camp to shock the most vulnerable out of their dreams with the sounds of bullets firing before dawn, you can make the young men labor like slaves to build the settlements on the land you stole from them, you can make it illegal to pick sage from the mountains,

You can deny people the right to live with their spouses, you can lie to foreign governments while you strip the rights of anyone who isn't white and Jewish, you can make it impossible to see taste hear smell touch the occupation from the other side,

You can try to hide everything that makes you the most well-funded apartheid on earth

But you cannot take away the people's memories, you cannot steal their stories, their weavings, their photos that survived the Nakba, you cannot take their maklouba recipes and faith that God is greater even than soldiers who can take your life while you pray, 

You cannot take the love of a mother fighting to bring her son home, you cannot stop the father from building a twelve meter ladder to risk his life to climb the wall,

You cannot take away their hope to return home tomorrow even when it is an illusion, you cannot destroy their determination that every court case is a fight for their freedom, 

You cannot stop the young men from picking up stones to show they still have the power to throw them, you cannot stop the masses of bodies gathered in the streets to mourn when one of their heartbeats was stolen, you cannot keep his friends from stealing the body from the hospital to bury it before your police take it,

You cannot hide the ruins and the overturned stones and cemetery graves that mark the families who resided here before, who called this very square of land their birthplace, 

You cannot mask the glistening of the golden dome above the city streets, the queen of Jerusalem keeping the love of her children alive,

You cannot keep the farmers from replanting their olive trees even after you have burned a thousand, you cannot stop the Bedouin families from rebuilding their homes for the fiftieth time this year, 

You cannot stop the four-year-old from memorizing the chants of his first demonstrations, you cannot take the laughter from the child who first learns to play marbles on the stones in the old city,

You cannot keep the people on the other side of the wall and the world from waking up, from realizing that prisons and barbed wire fences do not make us safe, 

You cannot lower the flag from being raised in the hearts and minds of people across the planet, remembering the words of the people who say this land is the heart of who we are

You cannot imprison others without putting yourself in chains,

You can stop the people's imaginations, their voices crying for justice, no matter how hard you try, you cannot hide the truth from the sun

You cannot steal the love from the heart that will be pierced for the freedom of Falastin, today, tomorrow, and the next day, 

when the people of the land and the land of the people here in God's sight will forever remain.