“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 in my head
I think “Do I know any Davids in Gaza?”
They call us now to say
You have 58 seconds from the end of this message.
Your house is 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 favorite 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.

© Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

Running Orders by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

“I wrote Running Orders at a time when I was losing faith in words. Throughout previous wars from Palestine to Lebanon to Syria, I always found comfort in the belief that art would keep us human. Art would help us witness. Last summer, as that belief was being tested in the extreme, this little poem traveled so far and connected me with many human beings all over the world who turn to art, just as I do, in order to persevere. On this page I’ve included some of the most powerful ways that Running Orders has lived in the world. Every one of these links represents a moment when Running Orders was used as a prayer, a testimonial, or a rallying cry. Every one of these was done by people I have never met. I can think of nothing more satisfying than to have written words that move people to speak them out loud. This poem’s journey continues to humble and inspire me.”

Source of poem: Len’s website | Image credit: Jamal Dajani [body of dead Syrian child that washed up on the shores of Turkey]

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  1. Nyamwange Ombuna on

    Quite touching poem…. Just makes me feel the raw dilemma faced by people in war-tone areas on a daily basis…..but your attached pic of a drowning kid supposedly from Syria breaks my heart.

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