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At Sea on the Audacity of Hope


Alice Walker posted the article and poem below on the Facebook page US BOAT TO GAZA. The page has recently been updated to announce: "Our boat's captain has been put in jail, charged with disturbing sea traffic – which includes endangering the lives of those on the ships – and disobeying a police order to remain at dock. The crew is being detained on the boat, which is being held at a military dock just outside Athens. Most of the 36 passengers remain on the ship in solidarity with the captain and crew." For further updates, videos and pictures click here.

 

Today is, I think, the 31st of June (Friday?) or is it the 1st of July?

We have been in Athens since the 21st – trying to get to Gaza. Many impediments orchestrated by the Israeli government. But what a wonderful group of humans.

Therefore: We've won. We're in Gaza. To be in Gaza is to feel this love. To know there is always a part of humanity that is awake even though the overburdened or the bewitched remain sleeping.

My throat is sore from breathing the tear gas that drifted into our hotel windows, as Greeks, mostly young, battle police, their brothers and sisters who are paid to keep them in line. This is the tragedy. I feel so much compassion for both sides my eyes tear and not only from the gas.

It was hard to breathe. My lungs were fighting hard to protect me. How I adore them, my lungs. And so many of our group tried to protect us, my lungs and me, too. A lovely young man named Steve gave me his own gas mask and someone else, a beautiful young woman with straw colored hair and blue gray eyes gave me the benefit of her knowledge of how to wear it.

I do not like calling such angels "blonde" as I feel the word is so loaded now and it sets them outside of Nature and somehow diminishes them.

I spent a blissful hour yesterday massaging Hedy's feet. She has the most wonderful gray eyes – full of humor and light. She'd never had a foot massage before, she said. And she is eighty-seven! Hard to imagine.

Hedy, I said – when she told everyone who passed by us: "I'm being spoiled" – I have a full body massage at least once a week!

This was a high point for me, as it is well established by now in myself and among my friends, that I like to massage the feet of anyone who stands up for us. Humanity, I mean.

Or the other animals.

Hedy, holocaust survivor, inhaling the gas in Greece, but even more poignant, anticipating being tear gassed by the Israelis who are doing everything they can to threaten our boat.

I have no computer – they said not to bring one on the boat because it would likely by destroyed or confiscated – only this small notebook in which I have been avoiding writing the poem that starts and stops in my head:

 

Sailing the Hot Streets of Athens, Greece

It has been so 
hot! 
Is it hot 
where you are? 
Penned up 
in a destroyed 
place? 
In Gaza?

The whole world 
distracted 
by its weathers 
& other 
disasters 
still is watching 
us, 
Gaza, 
as we yearn 
towards each other.

Trying to embrace 
each other 
to give each 
other, 
to ourselves 
united, 
a simple 
hug.

The whole world 
is watching 
Gaza 
& it is 
wondering how 
things 
will 
turn out.

They are making 
it hard 
for us to move 
Gaza 
& sometimes 
we are 
in despair 
but I remind 
us 
that you 
of all people 
understand 
obstruction.

They know this place 
we are in 
of not 
being able to move. 
They know it 
intimately. 
This place of stalemate 
& stagnation, so unbearable 
to any heart 
that's free 
is where they 
hourly 
live.

They will forgive 
us 
if we do not 
arrive 
on time.

Furthermore, 
having left our 
own homes 
we are 
already 
there.

I believe 
with all my heart 
in the magic 
and the power 
of intention.

The women & men 
with cameras 
come 
to record 
our dreams 
& our frustrations. 
most of them are 
young 
& we are glad 
of this.

We want them 
to see their 
counterparts 
& their elders 
attempting to make 
this voyage 
to endure 
this crossing.

We pray they 
are of good heart 
& balanced 
mind. 
Even 
the spies 
among them 
we hope 
will learn 
something 
they may never 
have guessed 
before:

That a boat 
filled 
with love letters 
from children 
is a threat 
to those 
with 
apparently 
little memory 
of youth 
or experience 
of love.

I have given 
my word that I would 
sail 
and so I do – if not 
on our boat 
that is not so far 
allowed to go 
to sea, 
then through 
the air sending 
thoughts and feelings 
I sail: 
We all sail. 
We sail the hot, sticky 
streets 
of Athens, Greece 
longing to see 
the faces 
& deliver 
love letters 
to the people 
of Gaza.

 

Written on our beautiful boat whose canopy is a giant peaceful American flag, as we sail the waters off the coast of Greece and are intercepted by the Greek coast guard.

  

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