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Poem: Running Orders

  • Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

Shejaiya residential neighbourhood after 2014 war on Gaza. Photo: Garry Walsh

Shejaiya residential neighbourhood after 2014 war on Gaza. Photo: Garry Walsh

They call us now, before they drop the bombs.

The phone rings and someone who knows my first name calls and says in perfect Arabic "This is David."
And in my stupor of sonic booms and glass-shattering symphonies still smashing around my head

I think, Do I know any Davids in Gaza?
They call us now to say Run. You have 58 seconds from the end of this message.
Your house in next. They think of it as some kind of war-time courtesy.

It doesn't matter that there is nowhere to run to.

It means nothing that the borders are closed and your papers are worthless, and mark you only for a life sentence In this prison by the sea and the alleyways are narrow, and there are more human lives packed one against the other more than any other place on earth. Just run.

We aren't trying to kill you.

It doesn't matter that you can't call us back to tell us the people we claim to want aren't in your house, that there's no one here except you and your children who were cheering for Argentina sharing the last loaf of bread for this week, counting candles left in case the power goes out.

It doesn't matter that you have children.

You live in the wrong place and now is your chance to run to nowhere. It doesn't matter that 58 seconds isn't long enough to find your wedding album or your son's favourite blanket or your daughter's almost completed college application or your shoes or to gather everyone in the house.

It doesn't matter what you had planned. It doesn't matter who you are. Prove you're human. Prove you stand on two legs. Run.


Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is a Palestinian poet, writer and translator. Visit her website here:


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