You Don’t Know Who Will Be Reading You

by Mark Chmiel

When I returned home from working in Palestine in 2003
I soon met up with Zeina, Lubna and Layla
Who had spoken to me so enthusiastically of the ISM in fall 2002

Now 14 months later
We were sitting at a restaurant
Their eyes wide for more stories than I told in emails

At the time a first-year medical student
Zeina said she had stared at her computer screen
Astounded at what descriptions I had been sending back to the states

I remembered though
In those internet cafes in Gaza, Ramallah and East Jerusalem
Just as the finger hovers above the “Return” key to send the message

A doubt often flickered:
“Who is going to read this…
Everybody’s too busy…

I know they love me (a few of them)
I know they miss me (some afternoons)
But they can’t, no, won’t, be bothered with these reports…”

Zeina told me that she was so moved by these emails
She’d always forward them
To her mother in Washington DC

Who then forwarded them
To scores of her Muslim, Christian and Jewish friends
As she–and they—were amazed

That an American professor
Would do such a thing
As to go and work with the Palestinians

In a  magnificent poem “I Am”
Laura Aranda encourages us all
“I am just press send”

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