Safe Harbor In Enemy Homes

By Rasha Abdulhadi

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.

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