Crystal Library

A library of crystal

Where the sun shines calm & still

For laughter like an apple

And for her fair head resting 

    Against my shoulder

She turns to me, and says

You must learn to relax.

And then – What is love

But small-talk.

And I say,

But small talk makes me feel small.

So she says, 

Then write!

    And write in CAPITALS!

Will that make me feel tall?

She laughs, and says no.

That’s a joke. 

So I laugh. 

Don’t you know how to be human?

I did once – that was a long time ago when I climbed walls and flew paper planes and watched the red glow of my blood in the night and then flung the torch light to the bright moon and the bright moon shone back.

And then I caged my heart, 

And opened my mouth. 

She looks at me.

Or my heart was caged. 

When you fall, she says.

I will catch. 

Then she adds, 

Write from where you are, 

From your heart, 

For your heart has always been warm. 

Your heart won’t enslave you

But your mind and your eyes might.

And then – turning serious 

She asked – am I thy love?

And I said yes, our hearts are tied.

In your tender dew I came alive.

Lies Inc.

Towards the flame you fly 

Drawn by the story, the hype 

Virtue, they say, is its own reward 

Then when the going gets tough 

They stab you in the back 

Time after time 

Suicide, cancer 

And the rotting of the mind

They smile at their guile 

And laugh at your lack of spies 

Then you are exhibit A 

Pinned down 

Like a fly 

In the centre of a web 

Nothing is true 

For everything now is a lie 


Orphan boy

You watch the great waters

For a sign

Sailor he says,

    Is there any news of my father?

My mother pines

And our home is without a guardian

And forty men sup and dine

   They eat up all our substance

   They are the wolfish kind

   Nothing they do comes to any good

   Our house comes to ruin

Athena, for it was she

Hidden in sailors garb

Looked at him with her calm grey eyes

I came from a land distant and far

They say that he fought armies single-handed to a standstill

And bewitched by sirens

    He slept under a moon-lit dream

    But his heart aches for Ithaca

    Land of his fathers

    There he was born

Now he sails to you

On the foam flecked seas

Sailor, says Telemachus again

Will you stay, will you rest?

You have your father’s manners

But I cannot rest

My ship sails tomorrow

But bring me a laurel wreath

To lay at the goddess’s feet

And we will chant a hymn

Rouzans Song 


This is a poem about a young Palestinian nurse who was killed during the Great March of Return in Gaza. 

As Salaam al-Alaikum 

My name is Rouzan al-Najjar

    From Khuzaa in Gaza

I am a daughter of men 

    And a daughter of Palestine

My father is Ashraf al-Najjar

And my mother Sabreen al-Najjar

I am the eldest of six 

And I am a medic

When I was young 

We slept as one family

    In one bed 

Tallest to shortest

Eldest to youngest 

All of us here are Najjars 

We fled Salamah by Jaffa

The day of our Nakba

And the day of our tears. 

And though we dried them,

We remembered. 

This is a burning land 

An enclosed land 

A land under siege

    Our land is a blister 

But the sea breeze still swings

    Through my hair

And the oranges from Jaffa

    Are sweet to my tongue 

As his looks are 

Our Nakba has not ended

    It blasts us here still

Khuzaa is now buried

It’s buildings bull-dozed 

There was a battle here 

    And I saw my friend torn apart

    Her blood wetting the dust 

    Amongst the dead and dying 

        In the streets.

I dried my tears

And I commended her to Allah. 

My father sheltered me

    And I grew up as slender as a rose

    My laughter was as the bubbling brook 

When my mother’s face would darken

    I would move worlds

It was not in their shadows 

    That I lived

    But in their light

I do not whisper 

And nor do I shout

With my friends 

   There is laughter

   There is talk 

   And there are jealousies 

I was as a lily amongst the thorns

I said to my friends, smiling

    Perhaps I will become a shaheed

And then they frowned and said

    Do not seek martyrdom 

    For Allah does not love those

        Who martyr themselves. 

And I replied, 

    I do not seek martyrdom 

    I seek to add my voice 

        To a just cause 

    And my hands 

    And my song. 

For all women are my sisters 

As all men are my brothers 

Our neighbour is not a stranger 

And to the stranger we offer 

    Our olives and our bread 

We are beset by perils 

And all paths are perilous. 

This is a land beloved

    By two people 

For the land loved them both

And pledged its troth

But we are walled off

    From each other

Who is the groom?

And who is the bride?

And where is the wedding? 

I hear only voices crying 

    In the wilderness 

And they said,

    We commend you to Allah. 

He said, she did not know us

    But she treated us like we were

    Her own brothers

    She was as a dove to our sorrows

I am a difference 

And aim to make a difference 

My blood be upon it

I said to my father, 

    Give me away

And he said, 

    I will not give you away

    You are my only daughter

And I said to my father again, 

     Give me away

And he said, 

     I will not give you away

     You are my light

         In this darkness

     Because of you

         There is warmth 

Then I said to my father, 

     I have listened to thy words

     And it is to thy words I hearken

     Call me not a rebellious daughter 

           Who makes an ornament 

           Of herself 

     But obedient 

And I said to my father a third time,

     Give me away

And he said, I give you to life

     Allah will shelter you 

     As He has sheltered me

     And you will be 

          The daughter of men

I taught myself as Allah had taught me

I taught myself by the light of a kerosene lamp

I bandaged the wounds of my friends – and of my foes

I was as swift as a gazelle 

Amongst the rocks 

I was as a lily amongst the thorns 

And they called me a lioness

    Amongst the lions. 

And they said, I was reckless 

Then they cautioned, 

    Your first priority is your own self, and the safety of your own self. This path is perilous. It is beset by perils.  If you live, others will live. But if you die, who will you save then? 

They said, bend a little

As the bullet is on its way to you.

I said, the bullet chose me 

Because I do not know how to bend

Why should I change? It is not I that should change, but the world. 

And they said, 

                 Allah Malik al-Mulk 

He said, I hope we do not get shot.

And I said, If I die, then so be it

    We die as friends. 

But I am no martyr

For I love life 

It is as honey to my lips 

My lover is my friend 

And I am a friend to all lovers

Those who love the wheat of life 

I am an army to myself 

And the sword to my army

I am my own sword 

  And offer myself to my own people 

When my life ends 

Make my life a perfume 

For those who know me

    And for those who do not.

Wreathe my name in roses

And anoint it with myrrh 

Then cast it upon the sea

And commend me to our Lord. 

    Say, that I was faithful 

    And say, that I was true. 

No, said the wall

    Which walls off time 

And No said the barbed wire 

The watch towers shook their heads, and glared. 

She is not the measure of mercy 

Nor an angel of mercy though she has the face of an angel. 

She was a shield terrorists held in front of them. 

She was a bandage that terrorists revived themselves with.  

She nurses vipers at her breasts 

This is a land of dragons’ teeth. 

She did not lead but she was led

    To walled up horizons 

    To a moon locked up in rocks

    To a nest of thorns 

She is a dead end 

That ye should not follow

Bury her name

Forget her face 

Remember her shame 

Ye are a pathology

We aim to cure 

Aye, the medicine is bitter

But ye shall swallow it

Time is on our side 

And then all the clocks 

In Gaza whirr and clang 

And their bells begin to toll

Tomorrow is full of fragments

And doors open and close in the sky

    Where our hands cannot reach

    Even when we jump 

The sky, that is as hard as a wall

There, in the glare of the Israeli sun

Our history is erased 

    Brick by brick 

We bang on the walls because we are suffocating. 

We throw stones at the walls because they make us eat bricks. 

We set fire to our hearts because once this was a land full of olives.

    And the sun shone on all. 

O my Friends, 

O my Countrymen, 

O thou World

    Hearken to my plea

    And be thou my witness: 

Brothers and sisters of my heart, children of the sun, listen not ye to the whisperer, he that knots hearts and minds, he that grows within walls and silences, and that makes victims of us all. We are victims of silence and walls but we will not go in silence and we will break down walls, for though we are weary, we are taller than our shadows. 


Dedicated to the memory of my mother, who could not read English, but would have understood.

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