A Depiction

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A Palestine-inspired painting that I painted and gifted to my father.

News channels, newspapers, Twitter and other social media platforms have been busy. Nothing unusual. Media is always busy with the usual stuff – feeds of similar story lines and repetitive political gossip, or an overload of one specific story over another – depending on what draws the most human attention (or hopefully conscience) and ignites the curiosity of certain media-addicted sedentary masses. Some is undoubtedly interesting, some heartbreaking, and others sheer comedy. Most of it is (controversially-speaking) clever and entertaining, not necessarily worth following.

However, a particular media feed this week caught my attention. It is of great importance to me – firstly as a human being, and secondly as an Arab.  As most of you are aware, this week – 2nd of November to be exact – marks 100 years since The Balfour Declaration in 1917. The Declaration that had impacted millions of Palestinian lives, determining the destiny of my father’s generation, my generation, and my nieces’ generation and probably the unborn generations yet to come.

A few years after The Balfour Declaration, my father was born. Not long after that, Palestinian families were forced to leave Palestine and live in exile (most left by force and others by choice – justified by fear, by desperation and in pursuit of life preservation). They left not knowing it would be their last sacred glimpse of their holy land – the land which generously gave to their ancestors. Not knowing it would be their last traditional meal together around their generous Palestinian table in their Palestinian home, where their childhood spirit came into being, and (I guarantee) still lurks, undefeated. Not knowing their house key would never again find its keyhole. Not knowing they would be robbed of their lawful right ‘The Right of Return’. And somewhere in the midst of the ‘Not Knowing’, Palestinian homes were destroyed. Lives were stolen.  Thousands became refugees, the thousands doubled and tripled until millions became displaced. All in a span of 100 years.

I painted this simple yet special painting eight years ago and gifted it to my father. It depicts the hardship of Palestinian life through the eyes of an old worn-out Palestinian man, broken by tragedies yet strong and living. His white and black كوفية (a traditional gender-neutral scarf pronounced Koofiyyeh) represents his Palestinian pride. The Palestinian flag colours in the background including the Koofiyyeh’s white (which also happen to be the UAE’s flag colours) represent his determination and hope. I hung the painting on my father’s office wall in his Dubai home (he had no choice in the matter!) and said to him, ‘I painted this for you baba so you will always remember Palestine, and me’. The look he returned with his eyes revealed all.

I write for my sister

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She kept him in her heart
He was her best part.

He was the sun
in her morning sky.

She was the connecting thread
in the web
of his dignified life.

Then one day
Fate stepped in
Wanted to stay
She tried to undo
what was done
But the thread gave in
The sun was gone
Her torment
had begun.

In her blinding disbelief
Her deafening heave
Her inconsolable grief
Her pain-stricken face
The colour grey
In her voice of fear
‘No! No!’
All I could hear
‘Baba! Baba!’
Ringing in my ear
That was my sister’s way
Keeping death at bay
Needing him to stay.

Days passed
So fast
Weeks came
All the same
Months fled
She hardly slept
Swept
by a confusing pain
by a depressing defect
stabbing away at her heart
wrenching her insides apart
She wept
while she lay in bed
feeling empty and dead
In the darkness of her room
In her wakefulness and gloom
Yet the burning tears that came
were tame
They never cussed
nor fussed
Instead
They silently bled
Flooding the valley
of his old city
with water
that is salty.

(She said to me)
He never leaves my mind
Day and night
he is on my mind
I feel so much pain
How can I explain?
I am the lonely sky
crying inconsolable rain.
 
(She said to me)
How can I ever forget
His mark on me
Who he was for me
What he meant to me
What he instilled in me
What he represented for me
What he changed within me
What he sought in me
What he gave to me
What he took from me
What he brought out in me
What he taught me
What he selflessly gifted me
Love, love, and more love
What I was never deprived of
To make me see
The potential in me
How great I can be
And because of he
I am secure and free.

(She said to me)
How can I but surrender
to nostalgia and remember
His serenity
His humility
His completeness
His uniqueness
His infectious sweetness
His discreet importance
His strong presence
His grandness and essence
His intense life lessons
His strong impact
A known fact
on little me
on growing me
on older me
on mother me
He was my soul’s key
My soothing sea.

(She said to me)
Please write
and describe
the extent of my pride
How he was my most brilliant light
How he made darkness bright
How he was everything clear and white
How his laughter was my cure
How his heart was kind and pure
How he was my bravest knight
How he had so much fight
How he made everything right
Record and remember
How he was my center
My faithful encourager
A man without blunders
A man with beautiful gestures
Write and tell
Repeat and retell
Don’t let them wonder
Keep alive
His relentless strives
His innocent smiles
His effect on so many lives
So that the world can read
Every great deed
So that everyone can see
pages of his glory
of inspiring he
what he used to be
what he will always be
what he was to me
The man of my world
My mountain of love
My magnitude above
My triumph.

(She said to me)
With urgency
Or with something
resembling fright
Please write
What he signified to me
Leave not a shred
of doubt
About
How I wish I could talk to him
How much I miss him
Fussing over him
Caring for me
Sitting with him
Hugging him
Our special connection
My affection
My attention
His fatherly protection
Don’t forget to mention
My complete devotion
As wide as the ocean
to my remarkable father.

(She said to me)
Please write
and highlight
The depth we shared
How much I cared
Let them be aware
How I cannot bear
That he is not there
Write
With great care
what I cannot dare
on paper
You are much braver
with words.

(I write for my sister)

She was his fair middle-child
The mother of his first grandchild
With light eyes like his eyes
Smiles like his smiles
She was his heaven’s river
His happiest giver
His sweetest letter
His personal defender
His most loyal lawyer
And I clearly remember
How generous
How gentle
How selfless
How tender
She was
with my father
No one could be her.

I write
Memories of the past
Destined to last
That touched me greatly
Made me smile fondly
How countless times
in their lives
in her unwavering eyes
in her somewhat subjective belief system
Despite my sister’s bountiful wisdom
His wrongs were always rights
His faults were never faults
His fights her fights
Shortcomings?
She couldn’t find
She stubbornly denied
The way a child
is utterly blind
To the weakness
of humankind
In her mind
He was the best
And the rest
were just the rest
Anything he said
was great and wise
Everything he did
she idealized
He was the answer
to every why
To everyone she told
He was her Captain
He was gold.

Did I write
How sometimes
she tries to hide
Unaware of her self-comprise
In the name of motherly sacrifice
To find inside
Some secret place
or space
to deal with her grief
to contain her pain
Less frequently, selectively
she timidly confides
in those few
she considers kind
Perhaps to carry on
to walk on
to march on.

Other times she shies
from those stoic types
And pities the ones
who dehumanize
the old who die
The ones who know her
but continue to belittle
knowingly or unknowingly
the pain she feels
Or rudely ignore
her cheeks’ wet trickles
Or do not acknowledge
her unstable flowing tears
as they appear and disappear
In her quiet mind
they signify
with their mean features
Earth’s most egoistic creatures.

(I write to my sister)

My dearest sister
My heart’s listener
Despite the thread
that became undone
Despite the fact
that the light is gone
Despite the tears that
stung
and the sadness that clung
Despite their drunken stupor
and insensitive tongues
despite what you have endured
and how vulnerable you have become
You won!

My sweet strong sister
Stay strong.

Baba was, is
your morning sun.

By Razan Abdul Majeed

Shine

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My Father. The best human being I have ever known and will ever know.

I am Palestine
I wait in line
I yearn and pine
I seek a sign
I count on time
I leave behind
All that is mine
Except my dignity
Despite captivity
Except my pride
Despite your tyranny
Except my wealth
Which is my mind
I have my Self
A saviour in itself.

I am Palestine
I am fine
In time
I shall shine.

I am Palestine
I am stranded
A desolate island
Melancholic and silent
Stranger here
Stranger there
Everywhere
A burden
I am almost certain.

I am Palestine
I long for connection
Some human affection
No attention
Only detention
Sanction after sanction
No remorse
Only chores
And bolted doors
No harmony
Only fatality
No tranquility
Only hostility
No equality
Nor eligibility
Only agony
Where is sanity?
I am alchemy
The begetter of unity
I shall breed humanity.

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Grieving

My father and me

In the most unlikely places

In the most unimaginable  moments

Flashes of him appear like lightening

It is daunting

Almost frightening

How his face among all faces

is the only one in luminous sight

Surrounding him only light.

 

I hold back my tears

And chain down my fears

I try to remember a frivolous story

But no memory, no story

Can stop my tears

Can break my fear

So I squeeze my eyes shut

Ignore the agony in my gut

Wear a brave face

Leave no pitiful space

Or any vulnerable trace

Only grace

Pretend the wind is the culprit

For tears that refuse to quit

But there’s nowhere to hide

No one to confide

I need to get a grip.

 

In the most unlikely places

In the most unimaginable moments

I hear beeping

Heavy breathing

All forms of heaving

Witness intubating

and efforts in saving

Pounding hearts

Horror creeping

into my veins.

Pricks violating

Saline swimming

Seeping

into his veins.

Ghosts sneaking in my head

Audaciously nearing his bed

Playing cruel games.

 

I see ugly zig-zags

of uneven charts

I see drug-filled bags

Oxygen increasing

Doctors strategising

Nurses racing

The helpless pacing

The indifferent sighing

The old wailing

The hopeful dreaming

Families pleading

Painful memories

Hardly worth keeping

I hear screaming

Someone weeping

Is death nearing?

The climax of grieving.

 

In the most unlikely places

In the most unimaginable moments

Unbearable haunting scenes

Invade me

They won’t let me be

I want to be free

I travel, and I walk

I talk, and I provoke

I write through the night

Ever so keen

To crush every scene

How absurd and how obscene

I refuse to cry

I block out goodbye

I refuse to become

weak, and to succumb

So I run, and I run

For a fraction

of distraction

No stop sign

Not even a finish line

So I run, and I run

Till I can no longer keep up

And my legs give in

Till all my emotions erupt

And I’m all washed up

And everything in me is no longer violent

Till everything in me is silent.

 

I see him falling

No time for crying

For cowardly hiding

For trials and errors

Doctors and nurses

Stop wondering, stop stalling

Can’t you see he is slipping?

I hear someone calling

The ‘death’ tray is moving

There’s trouble

He’s in trouble

And I’m in trouble

His soul is rising

Angels are flying

And my heart is dying

I shake

I ache

I pray

Please God

Let him stay

Please God

For my sake

Please wait

I know it’s fate

But please just wait

Too late

His soul is now soaring

And Angels keep gathering

God I accept

I swear I accept

I know I am inept

I shudder

I stumble

There’s no waiting

No preparing

And I, without realising

Crumble.

 

In the most unlikely places

In the most unimaginable moments

In my melancholic daze

In my weary phase

My heightened grieving days

I feel the warmth of his gaze

The depth of his gentle ways

The devotion that forever stays

His knowing eyes sweetly smiling

His loving ways slowly piling

Old tears already drying

New tears forming

Of momentarily relief

Ever so brief

‘I am fine’ I whisper

‘Just fine’

His fingers tighten around mine

Gentle and so kind

The best I’ll ever find

Hand in hand

So entwined.

No demands

Only love stands

And as I drift

And as I dream

As I wish away

And pray for an endless day

I hear my father say

In his usual reassuring way

‘I am fine,

Not just fine,

More than fine.’

by Razan Abdul Majeed

I see him

My sweetest father

I see him in faces of old men
I see him in morning coffees and newspapers
I see him in a father’s warmth
In light hearts and genuine friends
I see him in the grey smoke of lit cigarettes
I see him in the dawn of new mornings
In the rich language of his mother tongue
I see him in stylish suits, blue shirts and red ties
I see him in classic watches loosely worn
In gold-rimmed round glasses
In gardens, flowers and grasses
I see him in sunshine, sweet smiles and lovable people
I see him in birds that fly in pairs
I see him in learning, adding and subtracting
I see him in yoga postures and breathing meditations
I see him in philosophy
In thick books and highlighted sentences
In difficult words and witty sayings
I see him in tears, politics and sufferings
In dialogues seeking conclusions and justice
In unity, democracy and liberty
In understanding and equality
I see him in all sweet things
In honey, Arabic desserts and slightly sweetened tea
I see him in world maps and geography
I see him in endearing clumsiness and spilt coffees
I see him in little naps and childhood tickles and giggles
In big infectious smiles and hearty laughters
I see him in intrigued expressions and amused eyebrows
In curious looks of the innocent
I see him in Arabic music and old romantic songs
I see him in a soft and warm touch
In wide-open and giving hands
I see him in little notebooks and beautiful poetry
In difficult quotations, literature and complicated law books
I see him in my well-informed lawyer cousin
I see him in football matches
In tennis matches
Even wrestling matches of the eighties
I see him in semi-bald heads and white hair
I see him in kind words and generous gestures
In all kinds of endearments
I see him in all forms of giving
In all ways of living
I see him in every situation and impossible decision
In London’s streets
In cafes and parks
In brisk walking and saunas and steaming hot water
In warms scarves and classic striped pyjamas
I see him in backgammons and prayer beads
I see him in faith and religion
In readings of beautiful Koranic verses
I see him in written letters and brilliant prose
In sound advice and clever logic
I see him in old photos and unforgettable family holidays
I see him behind office desks engrossed in reading
I see him in bookshelves and ink pens, the black one
I see him in colognes and freshly shaven faces
I see him in my high hair bun (tabooz he called it)
In funny looking trimmed moustaches
I see him in all the greatest virtues of the world
In respect, pride and integrity
In hard core truth and honesty
I see him in my sister’s face
In her light eyes and fair skin
In her unique generosity and softness
I see him in my other sister’s knowledge and intelligence
In her opinions, purity and refinement
I see him in my mother’s angelic presence
In her special aura
In her open mindedness and forward thinking
In her sweetness and simplicity
In her compassion and empathy
I see him in everything that is universally exceptional
In fairness and finesse
In decency and duty
In love and loyalty
In freedom and fulfilment
In confidence and courage
In humility and hopefulness
I see him in the true meaning of inner-fulfilment
In the true feeling of self-acceptance
I see glimpses of him in my soul
I see parts of him in my actions
I see bits and pieces of him in my words
In my passions, in my reactions
In my name which he had chosen
I see all of him, all the time
In every city and every place
In every corner, in every spot
I see all of him, all the time
inside my heart, inside my mind
I see all of him, all the time
Whether I can handle it or not
I see all of him, all the time
In every minute, in every second
I see him
I see my father
All the time.

by Razan Abdul Majeed