Hunger strike

From Tala Abu Rahmeh to the prisons

Our long-time contributor, writer and poet Tala Abu Rahmeh, wrote a poem for those on hunger strike in Palestine. The strike started on April 17 and came to involve some 1,600 political prisoners, who demand basic rights like family visits and legal access. About 6,500 Palestinians are currently in jails in Israel, and a further 500 are held under administrative detention, which allows for people to be held up to six months without charges. Imprisoned Palestinians have been on strike before, but never on this scale. Tala Abu Rahmeh, like she has done so many times before, writes not about the political backs-and-forths, but the mothers and children, olives and figs, and always present sea.

Art work by leading Palestinian painter Samia Halaby, represented by Ayyam Gallery

You have been hungry

for 30 days,

and I’ve been glutinous.

I filled my stomach with honey,

swallowed the heart

of a watermelon,

full of water and sugar,

feasted on the orbit

of apples and drew closer

to the fig tree.

My love pushes the bread

out of my hand,

stop, he says softly,

let your stomach breathe.


You have been so hungry,

drinking water and salt

your stomach a Dead Sea.

I’ve never been so hungry

for a country,

I’ve never wanted to be hungry for a country,

I wanted Palestine to be hungry

for me,

but you didn’t wait for her

to call on you,

just armed yourself

with a craving of the sea

and a hundred and one dreams

nudging one another

off the edge.

Your mother sits in a tent,

in the city square,

holding your picture back

when you were healthy,

a headshot of you standing

in front of cheap wallpaper

a faded picture of the Empire State Building

right behind your ears.

You weren’t smiling

as if you knew that one day

you will vow hunger

until freedom.


I thought of you as I ate

bread last night,

stared at a piece of toast

willing it to become communion,

my forgiveness for not understanding you,

for escaping bounds and a history

tainted with a legacy of losing

and we keep losing

but somehow,

inside the walls of your stomach

you have won.


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