Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Breathing: a poem duet

Basman Derawi | 05-01-2018

One of the unique features of We Are Not Numbers is the pairing of each Palestinian writer with an international mentor. They often form close relationships. My poetry mentor is Kevin Edward King-Hadduck. Below is a poem he wrote for me, and then my response.


--For Basman Elderawi

A spruce needle, one of millions,
green, growing beside my window,
inhales, and in breathing, performs
in near perfection its vital purpose.

Perched nearby, a western tanager,
flame-breasted in spring plumage,
sings to another.

A magpie, dancing among branches,
paradisal beauty, highland clown,
builds a domed nest.

Bearing witness in this theater,
the leaf exhales, and thus
all the characters breathe.

A small child listening and watching
breathes as the characters of this drama
breathe, without thought.

I reflect beside myself at my window.
In Gaza, even the children seem old.
The whole world is old and breathless.

Basman, do the tamarisk and olive trees
hold their breath, awaiting catastrophe?
Breathe in. Breathe out. Insh’Allah*.
Basman, teach us to breathe like trees.
(Kevin Edward King-Hadduck)


--for Kevin Hadduck

I stand at my open window and breathe.
At dawn, the sun’s rays warm my face.
Gaza is silent but for her breathing,
weary from the buzzing of drones.

Another window opens half a world away.
Kevin, I see you standing there, breathing.
Do I breathe the same oxygen here in Gaza?
Do our souls meet with each breath in and out?

The world is clenched in wars, drenched in blood.
Teach us, Kevin, how to let go, how to breathe.


Posted: January 4, 2018

Mentor: Kevin Hadduck

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