Poems – Poem

Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi


Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi’


[September 17, 2001]

To the children who lost their parents in the tragic attacks on

USA on 9/11/2001

I fix my gaze on your eyes,

Trying to fathom the depth of your anguish

And the extent of your pain.

When your parents kissed you goodbye that morning

It never crossed your minds that you would never meet again;

Buried under the rubble, the bodies of your loved ones

Have dotted our emotional landscape

And have made you closer to our hearts than ever.

Your pain has thrown us into the unspoken pain of the millions

Of suffering children around the world, JUST like you.

We feel as though our raison d’etre, foundation, and identity,

Has been shattered beyond belief

However, your beautiful and sad eyes give us

A glimmer of light, hope, and anchor;

We tread the path of agony, this time, not alone,

But in unison with you;

We surrender ourselves completely to you,

You have become our guide, just like the SAGE in Dante’s Divine Comedy;

You have become our teachers, giving us lessons in love,

Humility, and compassion;

We see on the horizons the beginnings of a new dawn;

We see your compassionate smile

Taking us by the hand in the new darkness

Surrounding the world.

Your proximity to us has made life meaningful again.

Yes, we will overcome this tragedy together;

Yes, we will overcome it together with the suffering children of

the world

When? We do not know!

The world seems to be poised on creating

More suffering for children like you

But We are sure that one day we will overcome;

We are sure that one day your smile will melt down all the anger

And hatred of this world.


[November 30, 2001]

Thousands of children and orphans are roaming

The rugged mountains of Afghanistan

Moving so fast but going nowhere

The last time they saw the sky was before

Bombs began to shower the earth

Smoke and pollution have made them introspective

Pondering the inner soul of humanity

Looking for answer for their never-ending plight

Where to hide from the bombs

And where to hide from the sins of the world?

In a freezing night in the Hindu-Kush mountains

I glimpse the eyes of these wanderers by night


And praying that no more bombs would fall on their heads

I feel the pain of your stomachs

And I become ashamed of our affluence

We have made you poorer than before

And expunged you from our conscience.

Yet, every day we talk about the virtues of our civilization

You are starving in front of our eyes;

Yet we enjoy our snacks and drinks while watching you on TV.

When we bomb the hell out of your devastated cities

And rugged mountains

We claim with a big smile that we stand for mercy and human rights.

And the cold, dreary eyes of the military experts dominate our TV


Telling us about the great victory we have achieved against the


I feel the breath of the stones

The soul of the mountains

Crying out in pain

After waves and waves of our

Precision-tuned bombs

Penetrate the subterranean depth of nature.

The aching heart of the world saturates my being

Lifting me away from the pain of those innocent children.

However, I see you in the mountains of Afghanistan

The streets of Africa

In our downtowns in the USA.

No one greets you and none bids you farewell

You have been deserted and alienated

But “blessed are the aliens, since they are the heirs of the kingdom

of God.”

Yes, our spiritual starvation does not acknowledge your blessedness.

Come close to me

And revive my poor soul

You are the salt of the earth

You are the perfume of our existence.


[March 11, 2002]

Greet our house for us; oh Stranger,

Kiss the stones of our backyard;

Embrace the leaves of our trees

That have shed so many tears since our departure

And take care of the animals TOO,

Who have gone hungry since we left

And do not forget to pray at the grave of my mother

For all the strength that I have, has come from her.

And greet Father for us

In the chaos of the night;

In the chaos of departure

He was left behind

And although we smell his presence all the time

He has disappeared from our sight.

Do you remember the routes of our exile?

I was a baby then

And my mother forgot me hanging in the saddle of our donkey,

Who was shot for trying to return home.

Since that time I have been weeping

For the death of our beloved donkey

Who sacrificed his soul for mine.

You, who are coming from across the seas

Fortified with the claims of civilization

And the fake mission of peace

Take your civilization away

And leave us to our simple ways, to our fig and olive trees

Take your tanks out of our refugee camps

And take your snipers out of our hearts.

You have been asking us to stop

Our anger at dispossession

At humiliation

So that our Arab Emirs and Sheikhs

Can gamble away

the wealth of the desert,

Or that their American friends can suck out the oil

From the fossils of the desert;

And get drunk in the corridors of Washington and London.

You can exile us, strangle our kids,

And murder our neighbors.

But please be kind to our dreams, to our past

Do not murder our future together

Because some day we must learn how to live together.

We, the humiliated and the defeated, have extended our

hands to you all this time,

Begging you to forgive us for the sins we had never committed

Begging you to drink our coffee with us

To eat our food with us

And even to sleep in our bed.

But you have refused

You wanted our coffee, our food and our bed without us.

You have thrown us into the nightmare of exile, into

the abyss of agony.

You have broken the feet of a whole generation, gouged their eyes,

And left them to bleed to their death

And we are still begging you to be merciful; to be

mindful of our plight

We still believe there is an atom of humanity within you.

How sad is it to walk the streets of cold New England

Holding the Departed Ones’ hands

And how sad is it to thinic of your eyes

That are full of tears?

And how tragic that I am left alone after your departure

from this life

Left alone, unprotected and unsafe!

Please take time from your place of rest to call on me.

Remember the aroma of Coffee coming out

From many a chimney of sleepy villages

And the smoke coming out of the nostrils

Of old men and women smoking the Huka?

Where to we go from here?

When we are burdened with our tragedy

When we are not left in peace alone

Where do we go from here?


[April 11, 2002]

Yet, we wake up to another day full of slaughter and pain

And you are not here to give us solace

You have left us alone in the madhouse of the world

Belly-up and bleeding with tears and emotions

Yet, I seek you, Oh God, in this darkness of the world

And sometimes I feel you are nowhere to be found.

I seek to lift the veil between you and me

And I end up being suffocated by more veils.

I belong to a defeated generation, a shy generation;

A generation exposed to too much wind, disease, and change

And we beseech you, Oh God, to understand our plight

Sometimes we feel you are not there to solace us.

Where have you gone while all of this slaughter is going on?

Have you taken a nap?

Or have you decided to send your assistant to deal with the problem

one week too late?

I have traveled Northward and Southward in search of you;

And always thought I found you here in my heart

I presumed I annihilated myself in you and have become you;

But you are nowhere to be found.

I chased you with my full vigor all these years

I changed my identity for you;

I thought I became you;

But it seems that all has been in vain

You are nowhere to be found.

I have been let down by you;

And I am once again wandering in the world

Searching for a new abode.

Since 9/11, I have been struggling to shape a new identity of mine;

The combination Palestinian/Arab/Muslim scores zero on the TOEFL exam

of American Patriotism.

After all of this struggle, how is it possible to stomach failure?

And withdraw to the sidelines of the world;

To the remotest parts of Afghanistan;

In search of solace and union with the departed ones.

Oh Departed Ones,

Farewell to you with your excessive idealism

Farewell to you with your untold stories

Farewell to you with your broken noses

Farewell to you with your wounded spirits

Farewell to you with your hungry stomachs

Farewell to you with your trampled upon graves

Do not forget us

Do not condemn us

Do forgive us

We have failed you

We have spoken behind your back

We have engaged in many trivialities while you sacrificed your

souls for us.

Yesterday, they stormed a huge refugee camp and killed many


And here I stand perplexed, confused, angry, depressed

I find myself in a frenzy; standing still, moving fast with a

purpose; eating

Obsessively, fasting to death, praying, and traveling the high

corridors of the world while

Listening to Bob Marley singing loudly in the fields of Jamaica,

and delivering me to my

Solitude with YOU.

They killed the sweetest taste in my heart; they stabbed the

innocence of the world;

Yet, we in this luxurious corner of the world still boast about

material possessions; how

Many books we have written, and how many cars we have bought or


And how much money we have saved for our children’s college, 15

years from now.

Where are you, Oh God, in this spiritual desert?

We beseech you to water our dry arteries with your mercy;

To lift the many veils that have entrapped us;

And free us from this material world

And unite us with the poor, the dispossessed, the humiliated,

and the dead.

Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi’ is a professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Association of Arab-American University Graduates and Institute of Arab Studies

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group