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Poem: Grandfather Palestine's Refugee Blessing

Grandfather Palestine's Refugee Blessing*

By Genevieve Cora Fraser

Bless the hands that picked
The grape leaves
And golden clusters
From the spreading vine
Clinging in a high wire act
Over a flower garden
In Al-Khadura Palestinian
Refugee Camp
Home to a survivor
And his children
Of Lifta Village's
Al Nakba
Terror in the night
Days of bloodshed
Rampaging Zionists
Brutalizing pastoral people
Barely escaping
With their lives
And memories
Into a new world
Without rights
Except to return
Holes blasted
Into roofs and floors
Ancestral courtyards
Now overrun
With grape vines
Grown wild
Despite Israeli capture
Flutter the leaves
Waft the fragrance
Of golden honey grapes
Interlaced with dusty
Ghosted reminders
Of Arabic seasons
Idyllic moonlit dreams
A brief visit
Decades later
From this son
Of Lifta Village
Brought back
Golden memories
And honey grapes
To the overcrowded
Impoverished Ramallah
Refugee Camp
Tossed grape seeds
In a camp soil garden
Took root
Nurtured with love and tears
By the boy grown man who fled
Grown old
Tending the tender
Stalk of life
And hope
Now a thick trunk
Overspread with branches
Lyrical with leaves
An arbor of freedom
In the midst of Zionist
Oppression and assault
A green canopy
Shelters and shades
Hungry souls and stomachs
Skillful hands
Stuff grape leaves
Wash golden
Honey grapes
Succulents recaptured
As the old man
Climbs the ladder
Trembling with age
To pick the choicest
Morsels and memories
Nourishing refugee souls
Hearts longing
To go home

*Based on Mike Odetalla's "Our Dinner Today and Israeli Occupation Roadblocks," a story about his father-in-law's trip in 1969 back to his ancestral village, Lifta, and transplanted seeds from a captured village grape vine. Today, the picker of grape leaves and fruit no longer climbs the arbor - his leg amputated due to Israeli refusal to allow him proper medical treatment. Published in Al-Jazeerah, February 6, 2005 and at

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