In case you didn't know, April is National Poetry Month. Last year on the blog I posted random poems on the April Fridays. I'll be even more random this year (which may mean more poems ~ look out!), but we'll start with another of mine today. I wrote this after returning from an October 1999 trip to the Holy Land as part of a delegation of Episcopalians visiting the Anglican Church there. I left home thinking I was going to Israel, and returned feeling I had been in Palestine. In truth, I had seen both, and this poem is partly borne of my frustrations with trying to grasp the complex history of that region. Since it mentions Good Friday, today struck me as a good time to share it.
Blue Fruit of Palestine
They covet fields, and seize them; houses, and take them away;
they oppress householder and house, people and their inheritance. (Micah 2:2)
Not native to this layered land, bananas
hang in fields of broad-leafed trees
between olive groves and random
pomegranates on the Nazareth road.
Around each tract remain
lone cactus sentinels, the Arab
town they defined – Al-Mansura?
or Majdal? – long gone to interlopers.
Blue bananas, Iyad names the stalks
now growing in his homeland,
plastic-wrapped to control the ripening.
Standing in the kitchen, my brother grasps
the yellow arc in my outstretched hand:
The skin protects and indicates
whether ripe or rotten. The flesh
may be consumed by babe or aged.
Shape and color equal simple beauty,
he says. Bananas proves a god exists.
Outside Jerusalem on Easter morning
believers walking Christ’s last path
eat them on the way from El-Azarieh,
stripping the peel like Lazarus unbound.
‘Allar to El W’ara es Sauda, Es Samiriya
to Zir’in: Four hundred forty-four villages
no longer thrive in the land of the Holy
One, be he Jesus, Ibrahim or Abba.
These places, they did not exist,
claimed a Jew, denying prophecy.
Yet where homes stood the giant
flower slowly blossoms – perfect
fruit, unknowing usurper – one
red-edged petal opening
with each turn toward the sun.