Lifta, a poem
By: Tom Baskett
10/2007

You have to leave the
early morning traffic snailing
its way around the dry hills
threading through the lime-white
towers
fulfillment of promise in
the promised land for
the chosen people

to notice down the descending draw
the silent clusters of tumbled stone
habitations and dirt pathways
traces of a forgotten village.

Whispers of stories and
stories on stories of
vanished lives whose
ghosts remained after
their hosts had fled
rise like incense from this place:
1948, Naqba, catastrophe, massacre,
Irgun, Stern Gang.

Screams, gunshots
and shouted threats echo
through the village and along
the tree-shaded stream
to the spring-fed pool.

Two orthodox Jews, white shirted
and broad-brimmed black-hatted
casually stroll down the hill to bathe
naked in the pool confident that their
sins--racial, national, or merely
personal--
will be washed away.
Does the water run red on silent
moonlit nights after all the people
are gone and the stories return to
the land from where they came?
I imagine it is so.

In the end it is the land that
suffers our sorrows and
calls us home, absorbs our
sins in its rocky soil and
returns to us its fruits for free:
figs, grapes, apples, dates,
and the steadfast, shimmering
olive tree.


Tom Baskett is a retired psychotherapist living in Brigport, Vermont.
In November, 2007 he visited the destroyed Palestinian village of Lifta, now within metropolitan Jerusalem. He was with a group of Americans and Canadians organized by the American Friends Service Committee and the Interfaith Peace Builders. He was moved by the beauty and haunting spirit of that ghost town and wrote this poem. 

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