Monday, June 6, 2011
My mother asked
What terrible things await the world
That this young beautiful man should be spared them?
My pen and I are choked with grief
But I don't want to be a fair-weather poet.
There are never no words,
No matter how sudden or senseless our tragedy.
Those who didn't know him well enough
Didn't understand that he cared more about global warming than about Palestine.
He had a tone like Fela on the alto saxophone.
He studied Kierkegaard, Said, Foucault, Fanon, and pronounced "secularism" with disdainful relish.
He hated Marx and capitalism, but capitalism much more than Marx.
His mind was sometimes too quick for his big heart to follow.
He could be the life of the party and then cry alone in his room.
He taught me the meaning of occupation with his anger and with his joy.
He doubted himself severely at times, but it is no hyperbole to say
That he could have led armies with his voice and his eyes,
Even through his most troubled moments.
And he always emerged from himself stronger than before.
His approval and his disapproval gave us all more strength and wisdom than he or we knew.
He taught us to contain multitudes, to passionately love and disagree at the same time.
He made us laugh and cry and wonder every day.
He really made us think,
And he thought harder than any of us.
The world conspired to make him a cynic, but he had high, indefatigable hopes for the future and for the past.
In classes, he doodled M-16s and cracked jokes that even professors had to laugh at. He was an amazing student.
He was a poet, a prophet and a clown,
And he made the best cheesecake in the world.
He voraciously read authors he disagreed with,
And pioneered original translations of obscure Islamic philosophers.
His curiosity was bottomless.
He had an awe-inspiring capacity for memorization,
And he could free-style rap about anything, anywhere, anytime.
In all the years I lived with him and all the years after I saw an immense emotional spectrum which never included fear.
He was an old soul and a young soul in one, a little boy and a wise elder.
He lived Che Guevara's injunction: "Aunque revienta!"
Most of us were a little afraid of him,
Partly because we loved him so much,
And partly because he never stopped challenging us to rethink ourselves.
His life and his death are a legacy of an unfinished struggle,
Which is our responsibility and joy to carry on, and not just for Palestine.
Like all true believers, he doubted deeply,
In ways his atheist friends like me will never know or guess,
Just as we will never understand the complexity of his belief.
I think his mother was his hero,
His reference point for everything
From anti-imperialism to washing the dishes,
Which he begged us in the name of God to do.
He loved men and women passionately, if in different ways,
And everyone loved him back as far as they knew how.
He made a song of everyone's name.
He smoked prodigiously, and quit with equal vigor;
His discipline for excess and austerity was incredible.
He created an audience wherever he went.
Whether in high or low spirits, his energy never ebbed.
He was a terrific dancer; without being flashy he was always the star.
It sounds like I am inventing a character,
Yet somehow he really was all this, and so much more...
He was shot in school by the Israeli Defense Forces
He survived to grow up under their guns.
Knowing death from his youth,
He threw stones at soldiers,
Stole from settlements,
He had to go through 16 military checkpoints just to get to the airport to come to the school where I met him.
Nine out of ten of the hundreds of books on his shelves
Were about Palestine.
But he was not defined by the Israeli occupation.
It consumed him but could not digest him.
He transcended it. He mocked it.
His life-force was much, much deeper, much, much wider,
His vision of struggle was more profound and timeless
Than the question of Palestine,
Even as he dedicated his body and soul to its unconditional liberation.
His scattered prophecies touched the most distant horizons.
And like him, we are only beginning to fathom it all.
His life was a miracle so bright and full of promise
That even his death cannot extinguish it.
He lives on,
Not metaphorically, not theoretically,
But to the degree that we honor him,
Not only in our uncompromising struggle for justice and freedom,
But in our joy, our compassion, our creativity,
For the funny, the clever, the beautiful,
The mysterious, the sublime.
Not only in grand gestures and in dramatic designs,
But on the battleground of every day life,
The bottomless universe of routine and spontaneity
That Anas seized every instant of,
He lives on. Not a god, but no longer a man,
Something churning inside all of us, everywhere and nowhere,