Cabbage Leaves in Gaza

In Beit Lahia, in the north of
Gaza, a mother has made masks
For her children
From large cabbage leaves tied with white string.

All you can see of the two girls
Is that they have long hair
The colour and thickness of blackcurrant jam,
Eyebrows straight like a dragonfly’s wings,
Eyes crinkled like raisins soaked in water,
It impossible to tell
If they are smiling,
Their faces covered the way
Women in ballrooms once used fans.

All you can see is the leaves of cabbage,
The poor man’s rose,
The green and yellow of them like an
Unripened promise.

The mother is adjusting
The mask on the younger one, she seems
To be saying something but we will never know what,
Never know if they are replying.

It is as if the masks are one more thing keeping
Us from their voices, one more thing
Making it easier to assume they are smiling
And that everything is fine indeed.

What now, during these days,
When the rest of the world is hearing sirens too?
The old poem speaks of Samson
Eyeless in Gaza,
But what of the world outside,
Blind for so long?

Anushka Joshi is a student at Wadham College, Oxford University.

Featured image credit: Majdi Fathi/Twitter