Operation Cast Lead

peepal_tree_-_the_heart_of_itShe was baking bread
when the soldiers came.
Her children ran to her.

She held the two of them,
one against each hip, the dough
on her fingers stuck to their hair.

Two days and she never washed
her hands, kept thinking of the dough
still rising in the kitchen.

Now the soldiers are saying things,
jabbing at the air with guns,
fingers too near the triggers.

She thinks the guns are like
heavy limbs in the hands
of these wild-eyed boys.

If they let us go, we will
walk south, she tells herself,
walk south with everyone else.

We may not sleep tonight
nor find bread but, Insha’allah
we will stay alive.

With her hands full of children,
she moves through the space
where her door used to hang.

Her right hip rotates, lifts
her right foot, her left hip tilts
the left foot follows.

The turn, the swirl of her dress,
the squeeze of her hands
on her children’s palms.

The turn, left instead of right,
the sniper’s eye holding her heart
at the centre of his lens.

The moment of turning left
instead of right, the arc of a weapon
across the wide screen of this moving picture.

This woman walking, this woman
walking with her children, walking
the wrong way, too close to the red line.

This woman, her hands’ grip loosened
with traces of dough on her fingers,
remnants in her children’s hair.

© Seni Seneviratne
Published in The Heart of It, Peepal Tree Press, 2012