Journalism In Verse


A Way Leading Nowhere

in Middle East/World by

for Muhammad Ayoub


His mother said he had wanted to be a “shahid,” Arabic for martyr, since kindergarten, even before he understood what that meant.

He practiced death, dug
his own grave, spoke to bones,
planted his body like a tree.

His bullet found him, running
from smoke beneath a fence,
muzzle-guarded & belligerent.

Cradling grief, his mourners
clasped hands against wails,
leaned to stay upright.


The displaced live in times of peace but carry the war within them. Everyone else has long forgotten, but not they.

They feed on stories
from the before-times,

the olive-groves ever-
ripening, the feel

of the foot upon soil
it needn’t run from.


How to describe the way…the world and dreams meet, do battle…and afterwards, drift to sleep by the side of a highway leading nowhere.

It doesn’t matter if it’s true.

Truth roots and blooms

from the telling.


[The displaced] become artists by way of the turbulence, the mystery they bore within them.

O, had he lived
to become an artist,
a poet of the once-was
& the might-be, speaking
in his own voice.


Italics taken from the New York Times article below by Iyad Abuheweila & Isabel Kershner and Slight Exaggeration by Adam Zagajewski.


He played at death in a Gaza cemetery. Then he was buried there. [New York Times]
Gaza border clashes: More protestors reported dead as Palestinians and Israeli soldiers face off [Newsweek]

Devon Balwit teaches in Portland, OR. She has six chapbooks and three collections out or forthcoming, among them: We are Procession, Seismograph (Nixes Mate Books), Risk Being/Complicated (A collaboration with Canadian artist Lorette C. Luzajic); Where You Were Going Never Was (Grey Borders); and Motes at Play in the Halls of Light (Kelsay Books). Her individual poems can (or will) be found here as well as in The Cincinnati Review, apt, Posit, The Carolina Quarterly, Vector Press; Red Earth Review; The Turnip Truck(s), Drylandlit; Eclectica, SWWIM, Peacock Journal, and more.

Photo by Ahmed Abu Hameeda.

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