Palestinian Girl by Gwyn Henry

Palestinian Girl by Gwyn Henry

In another life

they’d have made passes at her

those two soldiers

their rifles at her heart

so unclear

about exactly what

they want her

to do

but something like

get out of the way…

     & so what else is new?

But it’s the men gathered down

by the road that the soldiers really

want to shoot

the men in t-shirts

& hoodies & sneakers chanting

& throwing rocks & waving

Palestinian flags

It could all so easily get out of hand

they need to be stopped.

But this girl won’t

get out of the way

She is between them & their target

& her headscarf tied smartly

& not thinking

about what could happen

& shoulder strap of purse

& she might have just been

strolling down a boulevard

looking into shop windows

that day

But now she is saying no

& her eyes sending no

into the soldiers’ eyes

from only 2 feet away

& the soldiers’ eyes narrow

beneath helmets

they lower

their barrels

One soldier’s jaw twitches

& nothing happens

until his arm snaps out

in a wide arc

to sweep the girl aside

like a fog or mist

& in the same instant

he drops to one knee

to get a clear shot

At the bottom of the hill

the crowd…

    (something oddly



      that sweep)

But she is quick

& her heart


beating at the tip

of his metal



The way she says it

as if he were her older



as brothers

can be

as if

he couldn’t

blow her pretty red heart

all over this hill

& most of

the rest

of her.

& it is to be a dance

they make

on this


while she asks him

Why are you doing this?

You don’t want to do this!


But now the other soldier

has her

in his scope

& then her arms

raise above her head

palms cupped

toward him

as if she could


his bullets

& that head scarf snaps

some more

in the wind

& her jacket

snug it gets cold

in the desert

& her purse

& jeans

she might have been

on her way

to meet a friend

for lunch

& more gunshot

& the distance sighs

& power lines stretch


as if

to keep

the sky



& desert trees

have no blood left


by weariness

of weariness

& again gunshot

2 helmets

1 head scarf

glance to the east

as if a backfiring bus

has just passed

She starts

at the sound

but her arms reach

toward the two men

wrists cocked

palms toward them

as if that alone

could hold them

The soldiers hesitate

& she turns her eyes

away from the blood

away from the smoke

& in another life

she might have been their sister

with her purse

& her scarf

& her jeans

& her jacket

& even she realizes

she can’t stop all the soldiers

but today

for this moment

She has stopped



(c) gwyn henry, june 3, 2014