For Amal and Amal

by Mark Chmiel

The enemy is all about erasure
Tactics: derision and denial
Insults and salt in the wounds
When you’re a student of history
It’s no surprise—
That’s what the powerful do
So tell them over and over and over
The stories you have lived
Heard, witnessed, nightmared
Catch your breath
Shore up your sanity
And tell them again
They are a compass for the young
A splash of cold water in the face of amnesiacs
A pinprick to the comfortably settled
Hope is telling one story after another

On Sunday afternoons
You come to our meetings
Your exuberance fills the room
Of sometimes weary adults
Who need to laugh or smile
(It may have been a few days since that last laugh
We justify ourselves saying, “Look at the news”)
But you’re the good news
A reincarnation of that great anarchist revolutionary
By the flash of your eyes you declare:
“If we can’t have fun doing a flash mob
I don’t want to be part of your BDS movement”
From your elders you’ve absorbed some of your history
Keep that alive with your joie de vivre
Hope is offering one smile after another

— Amal Tamari assisted Amal Salem at her presentation this past Sunday at the U City Library on “The State of Mental Health in Occupied Palestine.”