This year the Old Man seemed so frail.
His eyes grew dim, his skin was pale.
His once smart tunic, smudged and torn,
the scarlet cloth, threadbare and worn.
His shoulders sagged as if the burden was too much.
He seemed to shrink from any human touch.
He did not hear the bells' tinkling any more
drowned out by the F16's triumphant roar.
Carefully, he picked his way along the broken street,
discarded toys crumbling beneath his feet.
Journey's end, the ones he sought, could not be far,
following the relentless phosphorous star?
Now he has gone, I search the place
and though the air's still heavy with his shame,
of his presence there is no trace,
only a tear-stained note, or was it only dew?
'Oh children of Gaza, I came.
but in this place, I could not find you.'
This poem was inspired by the Xmas card sent out by Medical Aid for Palestinians. The image was painted by Fatima, in the Bourj al Barajneh refugee camp in Lebanon, whose own life must be hard enough without thinking of her brothers and sisters in Gaza. The translation of the Arabic reads, "Oh children of Gaza, I came and didn't find you."