Yaffa in Winter
In the old Arab neighbourhood of Yaffa,
the hens wander along dirty streets.
A rooster cries at dawn.
Worn-out houses, naked forever,
Sag, trying to survive
like wounded men on crutches.
Electric, phone and TV cables
mingle and merge like a sprawling spider web,
unnerving migrating birds.
Outdoor drainage pipes pose
as traffic lights for stray cats and dogs,
unable to resist sniffing the ground
inhaling the stink from the gutters.
A car parks on the sidewalk
of a narrow street.
An angry teen throws a stone and cracks
his neighbour’s frail A/C,
then runs away.
Yaffa’s clock tower chimes ten at night.
Rimmed with fatigue, the neighbourhood
finally goes to sleep.
Waves hit pebbles on the beach
wishing the neighbourhood good dreams.
Layla saeeda. Good night. Layla saeeda.
My small bird sits on my left thigh,
listens to music with me on YouTube.
It tries to sing but remains mute—
numb tongue and featherless wings.
In the street,
my neighbour’s child waited for
his dad many days.
He searched for him
in photo albums in months gone by.
The boy, having trained his small
now ties his handwritten notes
to the bird’s little feet
to fly and visit his father
in Negev Prison—
My city’s streets are nameless.
If a Palestinian gets killed by a sniper or a drone,
we name the street after them.
Children learn their numbers best
when they can count how many homes or schools
were destroyed, how many mothers and fathers
were wounded or thrown into jail.
Grownups in Palestine use their IDs only
so as not to forget
who they are.