The HyperTexts

Alice Walker, currently at sea on the Audacity of Hope, bound for Gaza come hell or high water

with a brief intro by Michael R. Burch, an editor
and publisher of Holocaust and Nakba poetry

I find myself writing this introduction, ironically, just in time for Independence Day. (What, I wonder, about equal rights, freedom and democracy for Palestinian children?) Alice Walker is a poet and the author of The Color Purple, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize. She is currently grounded in Greece, waiting for permission to board the Audacity of Hope and sail for Gaza. But Israel has already sabotaged two of the ships in the second Gaza Freedom Flotilla, and the captain of the Audacity of Hope has been arrested for leaving harbor to avoid a similar fate. (It seems Israel and/or its proxies have been using underwater divers and explosives to damage the propellers of the peace ships, endangering the lives of the humanitarians on board. These are far from pleasure cruises, as last year Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish ship bound for Gaza and murdered nine peace activists, one of them an American citizen.) The Hedy mentioned the letter is Hedy Epstein, an 87-year-young Holocaust survivor and peace activist who opposes the racist policies and actions of Israel’s government. Alice Walker has also experienced racial injustices "up close and personal," as she and her husband, a Jewish lawyer, were the first interracial married couple to live in Mississippi, incurring the wrath of the KKK. Now here, without further ado, is Alice Walker’s letter, followed by her poem ...

The Letter

Today is, I think, the 31st of June (Friday?) or is it the1st 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
©2011 by Alice Walker

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

The whole world
by its weathers
& other
still is watching
as we yearn
towards each other.

Trying to embrace
each other
to give each
to ourselves
a simple

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

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

They know this place
we are in
of not
being able to move.
They know it

This place of stalemate
& stagnation, so unbearable
to any heart
that's free
is where they

They will forgive
if we do not
on time.

having left our
own homes
we are

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

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

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

We pray they
are of good heart
& balanced
the spies
among them
we hope
will learn
they may never
have guessed

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

I have given
my word that I would
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
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.

The HyperTexts