June Jordan Song of Palestine

ترجمه شعر دیگری از جوردن: رود سوییتو | بازگردان: آزاده کامیار

Sabra and Shatila, 1982 — From around 6 pm 16 September to 8 am 18 September 1982, a massacre was carried out by the Phalange militia group, killing at least 1300 Palestinians and Lebanese Shiite Muslims in two camps in south of Lebanon, Sabra and Shatila. The narrative as to how and by which group massacre was planned is contested. But the common narrative is that the manslaughter proceeded for two days right under the eyes of Israeli Defence Force (IDF). The Phalanges, a military support of a conservative Lebanese Christian party were ordered by the IDF to clear out Sabra and Shatila from Palestine Liberation Organization fighters, as part of an effort to force the fighter withdraw from Beirut. 

On 19 September 1982, New York Times published a report about the massacre and the negotiations of UN forces with Israeli Army to enter the camps and clean the corpses. The report ended with the scene of an old woman in the death scene, wailing “Where is Abu Fadi?…Who will bring my loved one?” while holding in her hand a faded photograph of her son, Abu Fadi, and a wooden birdcage with a live parakeet inside.

The massacre got limited coverage in mainstream media in the States, but the last line of NY Times report found its way to a piece of poetry by the renowned African-American poet, June Jordan. As an essayist, playwright and poet, Jordan was a radical voice in advocating a global transnational solidarity amongst the oppressed and marginalized. 

Jordan responded to the event by publishing a poem the very next day with a preceding quotation from the New York Times report, “Where is Abu Fadi?” Jordan’s poem, Moving Toward Home, can be divided into three sections. From the very first line, the poem delves into giving a visual account of massacres of Palestinian people in Sabra and Shatila:

The horror that flows in the massacre scene in the previous section of the poem lands in the shattered ruins of a living room where some family member will be permanently absent. To Jordan, a safe living room is a place where “I must not ask where is Abu Fadi, because he will be there beside me.” In the poem she expresses her anxiety about the interruption of daily life in the camps after massacre, where refugees cannot safely keep their language and identity anymore, and children will grow up with horror knowing that men as young as six years old might be rounded up and put in front of a firing squad. The urgent imperative in the face of brutality is made clear: the “need to speak about living room.”

I do not wish to speak about the bulldozer and the
red dirt
not quite covering all of the arms and legs
Nor do I wish to speak about the nightlong screams
that reached
the observation posts where soldiers lounged about
Nor do I wish to speak about the woman who shoved her baby
into the stranger’s hands before she was led away
Nor do I wish to speak about the father whose sons
were shot
through the head while they slit his own throat beforethe eyes
of his wife
Nor do I wish to speak about the army that lit continuous
flares into the darkness so that others could see
the backs of their victims lined against the wall
Nor do I wish to speak about the piled up bodies and
the stench
that will not float
Nor do I wish to speak about the nurse again and
again raped
before they murdered her on the hospital floor
Nor do I wish to speak about the rattling bullets that
did not
halt on that keening trajectory
Nor do I wish to speak about the pounding on the
doors and

the breaking of windows and the hauling of families into
the world of the dead
I do not wish to speak about the bulldozer and the
red dirt
not quite covering all of the arms and legs
because I do not wish to speak about unspeakable events

that must follow from those who dare
“to purify” a people
those who dare
“to exterminate” a people
those who dare
to describe human beings as “beasts with two legs”
those who dare

“to mop up”
“to tighten the noose”
“to step up the military pressure”
“to ring around” civilian streets with tanks

In the third and last section, Jordan connects the urgency of the situation into a transnational identity and awakening: 

I was born a Black woman

and now

I am become a Palestinian

against the relentless laughter of evil

there is less and less living room

and where are my loved ones?

It is time to make our way home.
Having begun with recounting the details of a massacre, Jordan ends her poem by strongest gesture of solidarity, restating her Blackness while becoming a Palestinian. She then quotes the sentence of the wailing mother in Shatila who is looking for her son, “where are my loved ones?” and with a cry of pain, she calls for a move toward home

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