Safe Harbor in Enemy Homes
Even the trees are not blameless here—
they choose sides, shelter conspiracy,
and lend their limbs to massacre
on this green knuckle of mountain
made retreat for writers and fiber artists,
potters, lapidarists, and some of history’s
most famous racists—folks so deeply dyed
it’s not clear anymore what they’ll break for.
And I would be ready sure to steady burn
this sturdy cabin so clean, tendered
to me for shelter, for there is
no place in this good green earth
safe from its own history’s hollowed-out horrors.
Who among us can take a retreat from horrors,
who seeks to beat a hasty one from consequence or scrutiny,
and how do we make any peace
when even our retreats choose sides:
fostering peace and unity
recruits starched southerners to sponsor
apartheid in some land hallowed
by war to hasten the end times,
because in the beginning, this place housed travelers
merely means meetings
for the organizers and fundraisers of b’nai b’rith.
and supporting his brethren
funds youth militias to clear houses and empty villages
In this gracious confrontation
under the sweet breath of branches
on land reclaimed by zion from the hands
of a clansman propagandist and a friend of presidents:
Here we are supplied with a partial archive
in a refuge built against two reckonings:
so which lines are pointed enough
to pierce the open copping to crimes—
left unlocked on library shelves,
framed on the wall, celebrated with a graven plaque?
Every shelf is dreaming two nations’ glory.
Every shelf is a recruitment, ahistory,
every shelf complicity among the ruins.
My words endure in the frayed spine.
Peel back the coversheet and find:
I’m in your retreat, righting where the pages
of the deep south touch palestine.
Have I not come here to find safe harbor
at the point of a knife, daring respite
or the remediation of ill-gotten spoils—
and spoiling for a fight, am I not reminded
no harbor is safe and every port is the point of a nation’s knife.
Copyright © 2021 by Rasha Abdulhadi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 4, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
“For years, I have worn a kufiya when I am working and performing to remind folks that Palestine is in the room, even if we never call all the names. I learned this flagging habit from a beloved organizing mentor (and also poet!) Pat Hussain. This poem is about a trip that taught me to never leave the kufiya at home, even if I thought I didn’t need it. It is the story of discovering, at a writing residency, cheerful evidence that zionist fundraisers in the U.S. South inherited the infrastructure of white supremacy and the klan.”