Child hands and legs and memory: two poems on Palestine

Palestinian-child-writes-name-on-body-to-be-identifiable-if-killed-1023, Child hands and legs and memory: two poems on Palestine, Culture Currents Featured World News & Views
Palestinian children are writing their names on their bodies so they can be identified if they are killed. One writes, “No, I will not die.”

Poets Devorah Major and Khadija Muhaisen salute Palestinian children

by Devorah Major

do you remember holding

your small child hand up to

your father’s large comforting hand

amazed at its size compared

to your vine thin fingers?

do you remember making

fingers and palms Into church and steeple

and then opening to see all the people?

do you remember drawing

eyes and mouths on fingers

creating silly finger people?

thumb folded around

pointer finger making a mouth

opening and closing –

silly games of childhood

laughter crawling down our bodies

dissolving in the air

and reappearing

as a tickle giggle

finger wiggle.


not wanting to be one of the missing

or one of the unable to be identified killed

the little girl wrote on the inside of her

heart shaped palm between heart

and lifelines in neat Arabic script

“if my hand survived

this is my name” before she was slain.

these children do not have

numbers burned into their arms

but many have written their own

names, statements and identification numbers.

pants legs rolled up reveal

the brothers inscribed legs reading

Ahmad Nateel

Jowan Nateel

Rebhan Nateel.

did the oldest write it for his younger brothers

or were they perhaps written by a trembling mother

or a father writing while damning his own tears?

now they lie next to each other

softly browned saplings chopped down

before they could bear fruit.

the whole family it seems

assassinated in what their killers

call a cleansing

a mowing of grass

a righteous final solution

are you old enough to remember being a child

old enough to remember growing up

maybe even remember becoming old

they are not

their dead bodies

reflect the memories they will never have

one child has written on her arm

“no I will not die”

does she still live

devorah major

Oct. 26, 2023

Ways to help Palestinians

Come out to demonstrate in solidarity for Palestine. 

Go to for information, ways to take political action.

Go to Doctors without Borders to donate towards medical help.

Devorah Major is San Francisco’s third Poet Laureate, an award winning poet and fiction writer,  creative non-fiction writer, performer, editor and poetry professor at California College of the Arts as well as the former poet-in-residence of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. She can be reached at

On our limbs, our names we write

by Khadija Muhaisen

You see my father, he carries me in parts, 

Pieces of me, with my name in hearts,

Inked on the skin, but you won’t feel,

Equal to you, seems that is unclear.

What does it take for you to see,

That we are yours, and you are we?

How many, oh how many, must we mourn?

To make you realize, for us, hearts should yearn

To rest in the arms of our mother so sweet,

Her bosom’s warmth, where all hearts meet.

How many’s enough, tell me the cost,

Morgues are full, a world that’s lost,

The ice cream truck, it’s not what it seems,

Filled with what’s left of me, not childhood dreams.

How many’s enough?

We’re not just numbers, we’re lives that matter,

But the world’s grown cold, hearts shatter,

In a sea of tears, we silently scream,

Can’t you see, it’s not just a dream?

How many’s enough, tell me the cost,

Morgues are full, a world that’s lost,

The ice cream truck, it’s not what it seems,

Filled with what’s left of me, not childhood dreams.

How many’s enough?

What you fail to see, what you don’t know,

Our blood divine, in our veins it flows.

Our limbs, godly, bear the weight of pain,

Our names, sacred, etched like a prayer’s refrain.

On our limbs, our names we write,

To rest beneath olive trees, in the quiet night.

Where the earth remembers, and never forgets,

We’re held in her womb, in her gentle regrets.

Forever, we’ll exist in rivers, mountains, and trees,

In the heart of our homeland, where the world still sees,

The witness of man’s ugliness and his cruel hand,

But also the resilience of a sacred land.

How many’s enough, we’re here to say,

In our memory, we’ll light the way,

To change the world, to make it right,

In unity, we’ll shine so bright.

How many’s enough?

Khadija Muhaisen is a senior fellow at the Center for Writing and Scholarship. She is a PhD student in women’s spirituality and philosophy.