Prayers for Aisha Lulu
As I write, tensions and violence are once again escalating between Israel and Gaza. People are dying. Hatred is rising. And caught in the middle are the children.
This conflict, for all the years and decades of its existence, is the reason for Prayers for Aisha Lulu, an anthology of peace poems, dedicated to one young girl, and by extension, all of the children lost to mistrust of others, to hatred, to war.
And yet, in the words of Carin Makuz, one of my favourite bloggers, “This Is Not a Review.” Not exactly. It is also not a political essay or opinion piece.
It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to critique this anthology. There are, after all, two poems of my own in Rokiah Hashim’s latest offering.
My reason for wanting to write about this collection, is because I am someone who remembers being a child, separated from her mother. I want to tell you about Aisha Lulu herself.
Aisha Lulu was five years old, a Palestinian girl from the al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza. She required complicated surgery in Israel to treat her brain cancer and, potentially, save her life.
When she was finally granted permission to travel to Jerusalem, though, Aisha was forced to travel, and undergo her terrifying surgery, without her mother or her father by her side. An unrelated woman was approved, instead, as her only support.
This little girl, sobbing for her mother, survived the operation. She was returned to Gaza unconscious, only to die a week later.
A press statement by the Palestinian Minister of Health, Mai Alkaila, read, “Aisha had to fight her disease alone, in a blatant disregard to international agreements, covenants and treaties on…children’s rights.”
As it always does, conflict, the inability of grownups to act in the best interests of children, whether personally or politically, stole away Aisha’s comfort and quite likely her life. Aisha, it is believed, died of a broken heart.
Hashim herself writes, in part: Though Aisha Lulu was fighting for her life From a chronic brain tumor Only an unknown woman Allowed to accompany her For love and compassion of a small orphan Who doesn’t know anything About political game of the mighty and the powerful That’s the pinch of humanity Shown to Aisha Lulu The orphan from Gaza And Aisha Lulu died Crying to the end of her life
This poem, and the collection in its entirety, is, as Hashim describes, an Alfatihah: prayers in Islam recited for the dead.
Today, as more shots are fired, as tanks and troops amass, we look to those same gates and wonder at the children, at their mothers and fathers, whose necessary passages will only be made more difficult, or made impossible altogether. How many more will die this way? How many more will die in explosions and incursions?
How much more time will it take before leaders understand that every child is a singular miracle, to be cared for and nurtured and loved?
Already, there are far too many Aisha Lulus.
And so, those of us assembled in these pages have come together to hope, pray, plead, through poetry, for a solution to this crisis and others that cause so much suffering to children and their mothers, their families, their communities.
As for the anthology itself, while there are as many themes as there are poets featured, the ones I wish to share for this, WordCity Literary Journal’s (M)othering issue, are those connected by threads of child-parent bonds and the hope for a better world for children everywhere.
There are, after all, some things that should transcend history and borders, politics and even fear of one another, and this excerpt from Biljana Bilhanovska’s poem, I Would… has become our collective hope:
"I would like with warm look to embrace all children of the world as our own born, and to not feel differences among strangers. I would like to say to all the nations of the world To speak only about peace Understanding and caring"
Biljana Biljanovskaborn in Skopje, 1948 is a professional freelance translator, journalist, writer and poet. Most of her schooling was in the Serbo-Croatian language, in Belgrade, where she finished elementary and high school, and part of her university education. She graduated from the State University, ” St. Cyril and Methodius” Faculty of Philology in Skopje, in Romance Philology, where she also studied French and Italian, Literature and Culture. She went for courses in Italy to improve her translation and interpretation skills to the High School of Translators and Interpreters in Milan. She translates many books from Macedonian into the Serbian language, from French and Italian into the Macedonian language, and from Serbian and Macedonian into French and Italian.
We Change by Jose Luis Rubio Zarzuela If you want to live in peace Throw the weapons into the river. Do not teach the child to play with sabres or shotguns. Teach him to plant roses and to talk with people. Was is a game that destroys without mercy And you don't have to play. Let's change tanks for books set down knives and bombs for verses. Let's replace bullets for fine brushes or colored pencils and paint flowery fields or calm seas full of multicolored fish. We sow heaven and earth of white doves and live in peace forever. It is perhaps illusion or dream but I want to dream that the doves of peace They nest in all countries of the world.
Born near the sea, in the Barrio de la Viña, in Cádiz, Jose Luis Rubio Zarzuela became a teacher and an indignant poet who rebels against injustices. He has published twelve poetry books, three were written when he was a teenager during the dictatorship of ??. His work appears in ten anthologies and his poems are published in national and international journals, on paper and in digital form. He runs a poetry magazine that is published online.
A Leaf Has Kept Out All the Winds by Zhang Zhi Someday For something A hot quarrel Happens Between my wife And me "Don't quarrel You are married And you should love each other" My three-year son Who is doodling Suddenly says My wife and I Face to face ... wordless A leaf has kept out all the winds January 8, 2014
Born in Sichuan province in 1965, Zhang Zhi is an important contemporary poet, critic and translator in China. His pen name is Diablo, and his English name is Arthur ZHANG. He has a PhD in literature and is the President of the International Poetry Translation and Research Centre, executive editor of Rendition of International PoetryQuarterly (a multilingual publication), and editor-in-chief of the English edition of World Poetry Yearbook. He began to publish his literary and translation works in 1986. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages and has won poetry prizes in many countries. These include, RECEITA, SELECTED POEMS OF DIABLO , POETRY BY ZHANG ZHI, Selected Poems of Diablo, A Jigsaw Picture of the World, قَرَوْىلََعٍرْعَشْنِمٌةلْصُخ(Arabic), a collection of poetry criticism entitled, Series Essays on Avant-Garde Chinese Poets. He has edited Selected Poems of Contemporary International Poets (English-Chinese), Selected New Chinese Poems of 20th Century (Chinese-English), and, A Dictionary of Contemporary International Poets (multilingual).
Death in the Aegean Sea by Hilal Karahan With its claws, death caresses rubber boats crossing Al Sirat certain hopes drop into fire ocean. The world, whose sough is disappeared, waves at backstage like a curtain 2. When morning has dawned, refugee children trundle into the middle of mettle: Europe is looking blind, listening deaf. If they can reach to doors, It will accept 400 thousand refugees to make voluntary toothpicks for cogwheels of capitalism. They will be hungry, thirsty but still alive if they can pass Aegean waves, Greek police batons, Hungarian wire fences, Macedonian railways, if they can reach Europe. 3. Middle East has shaken out the tablecloth, paradise and hell are under feet Everyone lives in a heart's cage
Turkish poet, Hilal Karahan, was born in Gaziantep in 1977 and is a medical doctor by profession. She has also translated many collections since 2000. She has joined bilingual poetry almanacs and organizes many international poetry festivals. She has published 6 poetry collections, 3 prose books and many selected works published in a number of languages. Hilal is a member of Turkish PEN, the Turkish Ambassador of UNESCO-linked World Institute of Peace (WIP), Secretary General of UNESCO-linked Writers Capital Foundation (WCP), and the Turkish Director of the World Festival of Poetry (WFP) organizations. She has many national and International Poetry awards. Since 2017, she has been a member of the publishing council of international bilingual poetry magazines of Absent and Rossetta World Literature. Since 2016, she has organized the annual Feministanbul Poetry Festival.
Father Figure by Darcie Friesen Hossack 600 kilometres a dozen powdered doughnuts a stuffed cat for comfort the seventh row of a bus crowded to the back with smokers men who watch each time I pass their seats at six, seven, ten years old to see you - I bleed into my bathtub a dozen bottles of pills by the sink a cat sitting by as I silent- scream against pain I’m told will never stop in the emergency room I see you there which is how I know I’m dreaming
Darcie Friesen Hossack is the Commonwealth Prize-shortlisted author of the short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance (Thistledown Press). She is member of The Writers Union of Canada, and is the managing editor of WordCity Literary Journal. She has lately completed a novel called Stillwater.
Song of a Child by Abu Bakar Ishaq Eazy Tell me, where are the tears that won't be shed When all eyes have refused to go to bed; Eyes that are swollen with fear and become red? Now it seems, worthless is the human head. Where is that man who has refused to cry After beholding dead bodies piled up high? Look up and see the sad face of the sky Too many loss of guiltless souls but why? Yesterday was filled with tears and sorrow, Today, we fear the exploding arrow, How can we then be sure of tomorrow When the fate of our lives, we do not know. 'Mother is gone...father's no more...' Says child, 'I'm left alone. With whom shall I abide?' Vultures of the human souls are around They've taken the sires and won't spare the child. Daddy, let's move our things and start leaving, Tell me mummy, why are we still waiting, We either stay and die, or start running, Make haste for Boko Haram is coming. Because yesterday, it was Sanni's house, Today I fear the same fate for our house, Bombs are lying about like the human louse, So many roasted meat, but not of cows.
Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy is a poet, short story writer, editor, book reviewer, and essayist. He holds a degree in English Language and Literary Studies, and has written myriad critical essays on literature, most of which are published online. He currently teaches ESL/EFL at Qalam Educational and Technical Centre, Hargeisa, Somaliland. His published poems include, ‘Song of a Child’ in Sunset in the Confluence, a student anthology published by the National Association of Students of English Language and Literature (Nasell), Kogi State University, and ‘Overdue,’ which first appeared on http://www.memorila.com
When I Drink Tea in New Jersey by Faleeha Hassan Like a girls who writes poetry about a boy she has never seen My day sits with all this disappointment Counting her fleeting moments I remember my mother using the smell of onions To shed her tears in the kitchen For the absence of my father Who climbed his life war by war Whenever he wore his military belt He wished that war was just an old shoe He could take it off whenever he liked And he didn't need to think of fixing it at the cobbler's shop I remember my brother Who asked in his letters- When will the war understand that we are not good at dealing with death? I remember us forty years ago We were kids, very much kids With colorful clothes and hearts It was enough for us to see a balloon To drown in big laughter I remember all this now When I drink my tea And I practice my loneliness
Faleeha Hassan is a poet, teacher, editor, writer, and playwright born in Najaf, Iraq, who now lives in United States. Faleeha is the first woman in Iraq to write poetry for children. She received her master’s degree in Arabic literature, and has now published 25 books. Her poems have been translated into English, Turkish, Bosevih, Indian, French, Italian, German, Kurdish, Spanish, Korean, Greek, Serbian, Albanian, Pakistani, and Malayalam. Faleeha has received many awards in Iraq and throughout the Middle East for her poetry and short stories. Faleeha has also had her poems and short stories published in a variety of American magazines. Faleeha received a Pulitzer Prize Nomination in 2018, and a Push Cart Prize in 2019. She was appointed IWA Cultural Ambassador to Iraq. She now lives in the USA.
The Abyss by Luka Boskovic Have you looked upon the darkness? Have you seen the utter murk? That blackness, that emptiness? Have you felt how through the pores Ender under the skin the, cold, the hunger? Have you felt ice travel through your veins, that cold, travel to your brain? Have you asked if you dream of if you wake up the sole moment you close your eyes? Have you remembered your birth? No, not when you left your mother's body, But long before. That birth that caused you to be in this body? Have you questioned if you know the people around you Or if you only know what you draw from them, know only The mask you put upon your face?
Luka Boskovic was born on the 12th of June, 1997 in Sarajevo, Bosnia -Herzegovina . He is currently studying Archeology and History for a Bachelor’s degree in the Faculty of Philosophy, at the University of Sarajevo. Luka speaks English, German, and Bosnian. He has written 100 poems, a philosophical horror-novel, and a collection of horror stories.
Siti Ruqaiyah Hashim (Rokiah Hashim) from Malaysia is a poet, prolific film critic, and translator. She started writing in 1987 in literature magazines and newspapers. She has published a film critic book (2015), a bilingual poetry book titled Catharsis/Katarsis (2015) and in Spanish in (2016). Her bilingual World 1st Peace Poem anthology, titled News From Strasbourg, was published in 2017,and her second bilingual World Peace Poem anthology titled, Peace Be Upon You Davos was published in 2019 in Zagreb. Her own collection of poems were translated and published in Albanian by Ditet E Naimit 2019 titled Rerat E Sri Lavender. She published translations of Shaip Emerllahu’s poems in the Malay Language and in English titled, Epal Tetovo/Apples of Tetovo, in 2019 . Her bilingual poetry collection titled: BETWEEN STOLEN GLANCES/Antara Mencuri Pandang was published recently in Zagreb. Her works also appear in numerous international anthologies. Her poems have been translated into 16 languages. Rokiah has attended poem festivals all over the world. She is an associate author with International magazines Diogen Pro Culture (USA), Poetrybay (USA), Greenwatch Bangladesh, and Campus 247. She is also involved with WordPress (Ghana), Atunis Galaktike Poetry (Belgium), and Time of The Poet Republic. Her film article won an award in Malaysia in 2006, and her poem (which one?) won Best Poem in Croatia in 2019. Rokiah has received numerous international awards.