Poem of the week: Lifta’s voices by Seamus Cashman

Lifta is an empty Palestinian village outside Jerusalem, depopulated since 1948

Lifta, Israel. Photograph: Samuel Sockol/The Washington Post via Getty

Lifta, Israel. Photograph: Samuel Sockol/The Washington Post via Getty

 

When the misted darkness slips away,
sneaking down slopes
to hide from eyes that stare;
when light uplifts in open air
and revels with voices there:
– then, in the bright of day
hearts break once more;
break as they broke in forty eight,
and forty nine, in fifty, fifty one
on and on, in a mosaic of time
and faces, crackling aged wrinkles
round the eyes and door of each home.

As with famine homes on Achill,
abandoned homes on islands
of water or of land, by river, lake
or limestone shale, where shadows hide
when house is home and empty,
people gone

Lifta’s homes squat here, and stare.
Still in their aureole of longing,
sunken wells of longing.
Across their stony tellings is
belonging; beneath its stony will,
belonging; upon its empty walls,
belonging.

And when all passers-by are home,
Lifta shouts into its sky
stone words, not steel nor gas,
stone kitchen words of home
that Lifta’s voices know.

Lifta is an empty Palestinian village outside Jerusalem, depopulated since 1948. Seamus Cashman’s recent works include That Morning Will Come: New and Selected Poems (2007) and The Sistine Gaze (2015), both published by Salmon