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The Man, not the Mountain



Digital painting of Yasir Arafat

Azizah Shehata


Twas a Friday afternoon in 1969

I was enjoying my time

with a drink on the terrace of a landmark hotel

in Amman, a place I had come to know well


I was there to help the Circassian community

that had lost land and livelihood and unity

on the Golan, and to help them leave Syria

and settle in America


The quiet turned loud

with the arrival of a clamoring crowd

full of Palestinian vitriol

over the delivery of Phantom jets to Israel


From the main road the demonstrators turned towards  the hotel

clever coward that I was, and may still be well

I took refuge under my bed

overcome by dread


Much later when the yells and shots had died down

I left my hiding spot to look around

the lobby was under the control of Fatah

that had succeeded in establishing a modicum of order and law


I never met Yasir

to a good number of his ideas I did not adhere

but I may owe my life to him

in a certain way, way back then.

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