Reflections on Two Occupations

23 Nov


Not long ago I took part in a workshop in London that was jointly organized by young Palestinians and Israeli, and discussed prospects for a just peace, emphasizing the imperative of ending ‘the occupation.’ At about the same time I experienced the radiant energy of the young occupiers at Wall Street and near St Paul’s Cathedral. Several months ago I was in Cairo not long after Mubarak left power, and visited Tahrir Square still alive with its memories of occupation by the protesters. Occupation became a word of many resonances, both favorable and heinous, and this poem tries to acknowledge this interplay of feelings of solidarity and alienation. Perhaps, it is too personal to be sharable.




Reflections on Two Occupations


To live             to love

                                                is to occupy           

                                                to be



By whom             with whom           


                        Tahrir Square

                        Wall Street

                        St Paul’s Cathedral

                                                            the world


To hope to dream

                                    to act





By whom            for whom

To fear to hide

                        to resist

                                                is to be


            from within

            from without


It was once your land

I entered your land

                        picking olives

                                                settling there

Buying occupying


Above all remembering

                                                another distant tale

Filled with tears and dying


                                                                        my land

                                                                                    my law                       

                                                            my birthright


And now ours to keep:

                        history forgives

                                                what is stolen if time passes quietly



Long ago now

I did ask you to leave

            in a polite voice

                        then a raised voice

                                    then a scream

                                                            then no voice at all

                                    to go             get out


All I wanted then was for birds

                                    to sing some old songs

All I wanted was for flowers

                                                to bend toward home


And now I declare

            to myself to you

                                    to the world

                                                this occupation will end:


The graves

                        already full


            as dawn


                                                            the Jerusalem sky in two


What is occupied with love lives

What is occupied with force kills

                                                            before it dies and lives again           



I never wanted this earth scorched

                                                            moist with

                                                                        native blood


amid the ruins

                        I fight              resist    pray           




18 Responses to “Reflections on Two Occupations”

  1. Heidi Morrison November 23, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    Lovely. My favorite line is this:
    All I wanted then was for birds

    to sing some old songs

    • Richard Falk November 24, 2011 at 5:18 am #

      Thanks, Heidi, for such such a generous response! And Happy Thanksgiving.
      Hoping everything is fine, and that you enjoy Wisconsin. We are in Montreal
      until the end of 2011, and ‘surviving’ a real winter! warmly, Richard

  2. Jane Robertson Gaoua November 23, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    Very special, very beautiful!

    • Richard Falk November 24, 2011 at 5:16 am #

      Thanks, Jane, for such a strong vote of confidence, which is appreciated, and even needed!
      Happy Thanksgiving from here in Canada that celebrates the holiday less visibly and earlier.
      Greetings, Richard

  3. perkustooth November 23, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    Strikingly beautiful. This reminds me of Ed Sanders poetry, especially his epic poem of 20th Century American history. Has a mythic ring to it. Thank you.

    • Richard Falk November 24, 2011 at 5:15 am #

      Thanks. I will find Ed Sanders poetry, particularly the poem you mention. With my greetings, RF

  4. david HICKS November 23, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    Lovely Richard. I think not “too personal to be sharable.”
    I imagine I have a strong sense of where you are coming from.

    ” What is occupied with love lives
    What is occupied with force kills “

    • Richard Falk November 24, 2011 at 5:13 am #

      Thanks, David, I am sure that you do, and glad that the poem travels
      okay beyond the self that produced it. Happy Thanksgiving as today is
      the American holiday, although I am here in Canada. Greetings, Richard

  5. Karl Stefan November 23, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

    Hi Richard,

    Beautiful poem!
    I’ve just just joined “Occupy Mac” here on campus and will take the opportunity to share some of your thoughts on a just world order with them. I’m also having an art exhibition, which will be “sponsored” by Henry Giroux’s Public Intellectual Project.

    Best regards

    Karl Stefan

    • Richard Falk November 24, 2011 at 5:12 am #

      Thanks, Karl Stefan. You sound as though your creative energy are in high gear! Happy Thanksgiving
      as today is the American holiday, which I feel although still here in wintery Montreal. Warmly, Richard

  6. Ketty Papadima November 23, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    I’ve read it but a couple of times…. Not enough ! Not enough ! Will read, again… So I can feel the pungent truth of the words, again… And, again; so I can, truly, feel that my thoughts and feelings, as uncertain and shy and overwhelming as they might be, they are not mine alone….. A great voice has already given words to my thoughts… and feelings ☺

    • Richard Falk November 24, 2011 at 5:06 am #

      Thanks Ketty for giving me this encouragement! From Canada I send you
      Thanksgiving greetings as today is the American holiday. Richard

  7. Levi November 23, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

    This is my favorite poem so far!

    • Richard Falk November 24, 2011 at 5:05 am #

      Thanks, Levi, for reading and commenting so graciously. Happy Thanksgiving! Richard

  8. monalisa November 24, 2011 at 4:48 am #

    Dear Richard,
    great thoughts expressed in your poem !

    Be sure that your words, your poems, will still be alive read and heard when other things are gone …

    Its always the spirit winning …
    even when political occupations don’t end quickly …
    that’s what ruling politicans fear …
    this certainity …


    • Richard Falk November 24, 2011 at 5:04 am #

      Dear Monalisa:

      Thanks for such reassuring thoughts. Wishing you much joy on this American Thanksgiving while I am here in very wintery Montreal.
      Warm wishes, Richard

  9. Sue Thompson November 29, 2011 at 7:47 am #

    Playfully, painful & personal. I feel your love & passion for Palestine & deep sorrow, however, the playfulness allows me to feel the sweetness in your heart & hope for tomorrow. Simply eloquent, Richard.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Richard Falk November 30, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

      Your words and pictures always move me. You are so alive to both the joy and sadness of our world!

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