art of resistance, Iraq, Israel, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine, travel

Dear Gaza, I’m sorry.

Hala Alyan is an award winning Palestinian-American poet who has lived in various cities in the Middle East and the United States. Her poems reflect her life – the life of ever-wandering, searching, making and remaking, longing and feasting on the food of memories. 

This is her poem Dear Gaza together with the photos by Jehad Nga, from his series Something in the way (Iraq, 2010.).  I just thought those photos would work perfectly with this poem. They are so subtle, but so powerful.

Dear Gaza,

I’m sorry


Dear Beirut,

I still love you like an arsonist

Dear Venice,

When that glassblower put his lips to

the glowing pipe

and I followed his breath into

an ornament

I understood grace


Dear New Orleans,

You gave me swelter and melody and

staircase after the longest winter of my life

You are where I forgave myself


Dear Boston,

I found the bird already dead

Crooked nest scattering

the pavement

and for days all I saw

was that constellation of bones


Dear Aya Nappa,

I cannot hear your name

without thinking war and ship

and two moons before coastline

Dear Tripoli,

It was whiplash

It was awful month

It was season of flinching

I won’t be coming back


Dear Rome,

When I think of my future self

She is walking your piazza

wearing something yellow


Dear Wichita,

I remember the summer songs on the radio

The car rides through the backbone

of your highways

I remember corn fields and pregnant sky

and always a thunderstorm


Dear Gaza,

I’m sorry

Dear Ramallah,

Thank you for the applause

Thank you for the seltzer water

the tableh player

the 3am tomato and bread

Thank you for the balcony


Dear Dubai,

I forgot a scarf

a silver ring

a tube of lipstick

and courage to make a mistake

I found the ring

The rest you may keep

Dear Aleppo,

Forgive me my litter

my uneaten rice

my abundance of light bulbs

Forgive me my bed soft and warm

even in January


Dear Baghdad,

Twenty six years and you still

make me cry

Dear Doha,

With you I am always dreaming of

starlit eels and honey water and swans

bathing in fluorescent sky

I miss those colors


Dear Istanbul,

Marry me

Dear Dallas,

I bought polished pebbles from

your mall kiosks

and pretended I was Aladdin

turning the soil over

and gasping


Dear Gaza,

I’m sorry

Dear Beirut,

You are cherry end of cigarette

You are pulse and tunnel

Freckles and siren

How can you fit so much?


Dear Norman, Oklahoma,

No one calls me Holly anymore

I blink slept woke wanting fairytale hair

for breakfast

loving boys with quarterback hands

and suburban smiles

Dear Las Vegas,

I’d rather not


Dear Brooklyn,

I came to you tumbled and spun

I came to you with 62 books

and the mistakes I’d gathered like splinters

You showed me where to sit

Dear Dublin,



Dear Damascus,

Nothing is as dangerous

as an unlit match

You taught us that

Dear Paris,

By beauty I meant that bridge

Those clouds and the legs my brother and I

dangled over the water


Dear Jerusalem,

Only you know what I am capable of

Dear London,

When I didn’t speak

it wasn’t because I was ungrateful

I was trying not to cry


Dear Gaza,

I’m sorry


Dear Manhattan,

I left a part of myself in that nightclub

like some paper crane with a beating heart

She is crumpled and sleeping

Do not wake her


Dear Bangkok,

I ate your fruit salted

Bare fingers peeling back skin

for shrines of gold and sugar

Dear Beirut,

I bruise as easily as you do

We are both anemic veins

and unbrushed hair and survivor’s


 konjkall photos © Jehad Nga

Dear Gaza,

When I come to you

it will be summer

Scorching sun and a music to the


You’ll ask me

‘what took so long’

and I’ll tell you where I’ve been.

For more of Aylan’s poetry, visit her official website, and for more Nga’s photography visit his.


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