How can I sleep? When I close my eyes, there is fire everywhere. The doctors who go among the wounded and dead in Gaza say they believe the Israeli military is using DIME weapons, Dense Inert Metal Explosives. These bombs explode into clouds of micro-shrapnel, fill the flesh of those within range with tiny particles of tungsten and nickel, heavy metals contaminating the injured, so that those who are not killed outright, who survive, perhaps with severed limbs, are infested with microscopic time bombs of cancer--of the connective tissue. They are shredding the webs of people's bodies.
The doctors say these wounds are inoperable, that the metals are scattered like powder throughout the bodies. They say they are finding bones burned and shattered from within. Thirty per cent of the casualties are children.
I know that I should lie down and go to sleep, so I can rise up in the morning, rested, ready to write furious, heartbreaking poems that shatter and burn indifference from within, poems that seed the landscape with compassion, solidarity and hope, that this will be of much more use than my anguished vigil, but Gaza is too close to the bone.
So I call on my dead to watch for me. I call on Aunt Gitl and Uncle Shabsel and their daughter Fira, Uncle Hershel and Aunt Perl and their children Musia and Boris, all of whom died on May 19, 1942 in the village of Israelevka, at the hands of soldiers who were clearing the land for settlers. and are buried under the corn and the peas their neighbors planted over the mass grave, and I ask them to be witnesses through the night.
I call on Emmanuel Ringelblum, archivist of the Warsaw Ghetto, who led the residents, walled into captivity, cut off from food, work, medicine, to document their suffering and resistance, their beauty and sorrow, and buried tens of thousands of documents in metal milk cans beneath the floor of a forbidden schoolroom. I ask him to take note of the evidence, to record the names, to recognize hunger and fear and the threat of extermination.
I ask my great grandmother Leah Shevelev, lifelong feminist radical, my grandfather Reuben Levins, communist lawyer, my great uncle Lou, people's artist, my dead poets, historians, singers, teachers to bear witness through the day already dawning over Gaza, and guard my sleep, because we who believe in freedom do, in fact, need to rest before it comes, so we can get up in the morning with clear eyes, strong heart and sharp mind, and do the work that needs to be done.
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