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Poem: "The Tragedy of the People" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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Poem: "The Tragedy of the People"
This poem is spillover from the April 4, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] chanter_greenie and [personal profile] callibr8. It also fills the "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" square in my 2-1-17 Love Songs card for the Valentines Bingo fest. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. This poem belongs to the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features living in a warzone, references to war-related violence, imperialistic history, acts of genocide, Palestine and Israel are bottom-ten countries for valid reasons, fleeing in terror, survivor guilt, scrounging for survival, recruitment into a supervillain organization, and other angst. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"The Tragedy of the People"


Salim Tamimi is too young to remember
a free Palestine, but he's heard stories of it
from before the endless decades of war.

It would be nice, he thinks, to live somewhere
free of bombs and raids and encroachment.

People say it's about religion, so he
rejects Islam and Judaism and all the rest,
but he knows there is more to it than this.

The tragedy of the people of Palestine
is that their country was 'given' by
a foreign power to another people
for the creation of a new state.

Thousands of innocent people were
forcibly evicted from their homes, and
each new conflict leaves even more
living in the cracks, as the world
looks on with bland indifference.

Salim does his part to help his people.

Ever since he got caught in a bombardment,
he has been able to teleport, so he sneaks around
to gather and distribute supplies for the others,
although he is careful to hide his ability.

He knows that Palestine is one of
the bottom-ten countries for soups,
and that's the case for good reasons.

He is digging through the rubble of Rafah
in search of anything usable when a line
of machine gun fire grimly stitches its way
toward him, pinning him against the Wall.

Instinct sweeps him away from the threat
and drops him safely a moment later --

on the Egyptian side of Rafah.

Salim knows that he should go back,
but he doesn't want to, and can't make
himself want to return to that hellhole.

So he stays in Egypt, which is illegal,
but it's slightly more survivable.

He'll get in trouble if anyone catches him,
of course, he doesn't have permission
to be free; but even if they do, he can
always teleport to safety again.

Salim only speaks Palestinian Arabic,
but he can get by in Egyptian, sort of,
if he concentrates on what people say.

Every time he speaks, though, he
gives away his origin; so he tries
very hard never to say anything.

He scavenges for food because
that's easier than buying it, and he
learns to follow the yellow jackal
that knows all the best spots where
the restaurants throw out their scraps.

Salim comes to love that jackal
because it shares food with him
instead of snapping at him.

It's hard, though, and lonely,
so one day Salim sits down and
pours his heart out to the friendly jackal.

It seems oddly attentive to his tale,
flicking its big ears the way a human
would nod in encouragement.

"I wish I could go somewhere better,"
Salim says, closing his eyes,
"but I don't know how."

"You could come with me,"
a voice says in Palestinian,
"since you don't hesitate
to break foolish rules."

Salim springs to his feet.
"What -- who --?" he stammers.

A larger, older man smiles
down on him. The stranger looks
mixed-race to Salim, maybe Egyptian
or Palestinian from the light brown skin,
but the ginger hair suggests American
or some other European heritage.

"My name is Saul Omar," he says.
"I work with an organization that has
an interest in people with special abilities.
At the moment my assignment is to watch
the Egyptian side of the border and offer
aid to anyone escaping from Palestine."

"But -- but I don't know you," Salim protests.

"Actually, you do," Saul says. "We've
been friends for a few weeks now."

Suddenly the jackal is in his place.

Salim yelps in surprise and
scrambles away, but the jackal
just drops its jaw in a long canine grin.

Then it blurs back into Saul again,
who says, "Now do you see?"

"You're the jackal," Salim says.
He tries to swallow, but his mouth
is too try and everything seems strange.

"Yes, I'm a shapeshifter," says Saul.
"That's just one of several forms I can do.
Now, let's talk about how I can help you.
Earlier you expressed a wish to leave. Did
you mean get out of Rafah, or out of Egypt?"

"I don't know, anywhere," Salim says.
"Somewhere safe. Somewhere I could
learn a trade, get a job -- I didn't get
much school in Gaza, nobody did."

"Easily done," Saul says. "We have
interests all around the world, and
plenty of educational opportunities.
You could have your pick of jobs, if
you don't want to serve as a teleporter."

The trouble is, Salim has gotten offers
before, all of them awful in some way.

He's also heard the stories, whispered
among the children, of bogeymen
and fairy godmothers who come
to steal away the teenagers.

"I won't sell my body, or anyone else's,"
he insists. "I don't do drugs either."

To his surprise, Saul's smile widens.
"Good," he says. "That means you'll
have fewer bad habits to unlearn."

Salim licks his lips. He's hungry
and thirsty and can't remember
the last time he had a bath.

"Why are you doing this?"
he asks. "What's in it for you?"

"I'm doing this because, years ago,
someone offered me a way out of
Palestine," says Saul. "Now I work
to help other young people escape
their problems, and unlike the white hats,
I'm not as picky about legalities. This is
my way of easing the tragedy of my people."

That, Salim can understand perfectly.

"All right," he says. "Where are we
going? This is all ... pretty confusing."

"Just follow me," Saul says, and leads
the way through the dusty streets to
a door covered in scratches and scrawls
and several colors of old, peeling paint.

"Now what?" Salim asks, staring at it.

"Can you carry a passenger?"
Saul asks, holding out a hand.

"I can in an emergency," Salim says,
his mouth dry. "I try not to, though.
It's too dangerous if people know."

"It was in Palestine," Saul says.
"It's not where we're going. I think
you'll like it a lot better. I did."

"What do you want me to do?"
Salim says in a shaky voice.

"Just take my hand, and hop us
into the safehouse," Saul says.
"One long stride is plenty."

"All right," Salim says.
He takes the big, warm hand
and closes his eyes and concentrates.

Then he jumps into his new life.

* * *

Notes:

Salim Tamimi -- He has copper skin, black eyes, and short black hair. His parents were Muslim but Salim rejects religion as a blot on humanity. Growing up in a warzone has left him with traumatic stress and little education. He uses his teleportation to obtain and distribute supplies for his people.
Origin: He first teleported out of danger during a bombardment by the Israeli military.
Uniform: He wears whatever clothes he can scavenge.
Qualities: Good (+2) Atheist, Good (+2) Derbekkeh Drummer, Good (+2) Freerunning, Good (+2) Kinesthetic Intelligence
Poor (-2) Grew Up in a Warzone
Powers: Good (+2) Teleportation
Motivation: Survival

The music of Palestine includes the derbekkeh drum. You can listen to it online.


Saul Omar -- He has light brown skin, sherry-brown eyes, and ginger hair with blond roots although his facial and body hair is darker brown. His heritage includes Israeli, Palestinian, Arabic, and American. He speaks Arabic, English, and Hebrew. He is Sunni Muslim. Saul favors gizmotronic or super-gizmotronic weapons; his favorite is a freeze ray. He likes musical games such as Moosiqar.
Origin: When his superpower manifested at puberty, that made him a target in Palestine. Kraken won him over simply by offering to get him out of the country, which is one of the bottom-ten for soups.
Uniform: Kraken uniform of dexflan and capery; the jumpsuits is sensibly designed with sleek fit, plenty of pockets and fasteners for equipment. It provides Expert (+4) Camouflage to a designated user, but if worn by anyone else, turns garish neon colors. The utility belt contains a multitude of small gizmos and other tools.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Spy, Expert (+4) Hand-to-Hand Combat, Good (+2) Gizmology, Good (+2) Languages, Good (+2) Musical Games, Good (+2) Palestinian Folk Music, Good (+2) Politics, Good (+2) Teacher
Poor (-2) Born in a Bottom-Ten Country
Powers: Good (+2) Shapeshifting
Motivation: To make the world safer for soups -- by any means necessary.

* * *

"The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was “given” by a foreign power to another people for the creation of a new state. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their numbers increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty?"
-- Bertrand Russell

This page shows maps of the Middle East, Israel and Palestine, and Israel's chronological takeover of Palestine. Here is a closeup map of the Gaza Strip, and this one shows Sinai cities.

The languages of Palestine include Palestinian Arabic and Egyptian Arabic.

Sinai animals include various canines such as the golden jackal.

This is the door of the safehouse in Rafah.

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