12. 8. 2023

& “Revolution Must Mean Life”

Maysam Ghani


I am the rebel 

I am not a pawn in your game of empire

I am only
The broken
Of my people
In Gaza 

I am the rubble

I am not the caricature that moves on your diamond screens

I am only the home
That you do not see as a home
Unless you are the one living in it

I am the rubble

I am only
Screaming at the top of my lungs
Wide eyed
Sun kissed hair
Red spotted shirt
Dotted with tears
Clutching desperately onto loose sheets of paper

I am the rebel

I am only
Fighting for the words
Of my people 

I am only
The c u r v e s of my arabi that I was never taught
The nectar that pours from Teta’s mouth
Onto paper

I am only
Her words that live for centuries
In those old story books
That you won’t even let me hold 

I am only
The ashes of my home
The dust of my dreams 

I am only the
Destruction you have engraved into my mother’s spine
It engulfs her 

She feeds me

Your rage is mechanical
It turns the gears of your bulldozer

I am only the rubble
That the cameras never get close enough to touch

I have stories
Imprinted on my skin
No matter how much I try to take the ink
Off my body
And write it onto the paper
You tell me
I am not worthy
I am not human
I am a terrorist
I write hate
I write evil

You are evil

I am my
Jido’s namesake
Written on my wrist
For this world
To hear my breath 

I sigh from
Inside the rubble
And say 

I am
The rebel

My books
Are an army

I will carve myself into the countertops of Teta’s kitchen
I will etch my skin
With tally marks
Of the days you left us caged

I will look up and say ya Allah
I am here
And they won’t write my story
Keep me alive 

I know that our stories will rebuild these creations
And I know that my ashes
Will scatter
The world

Notes on “Rebel”:

arabi is a transliteration of the word “Arabic,” pronounced “‘A-rab-ee.”

Teta is a transliteration of the Arabic word meaning “grandmother.”

Jido is a transliteration of the Arabic word meaning “grandfather.”

ya Allah is a transliteration of the Arabic for “Oh God.”

Revolution Must Mean Life

(After Leila Khaled)


This is a lineage unchained
Prisoners’ songs smuggled past confined spaces
Bites metal bars and stone walls
Resistance poems were made out of this


This is profit eats soil, eats man, feasts on bullets
Made supreme
Workers who have nothing but their labour

Embargo forgo and seize
They thought they won after ’48

This is profit eats soil, man sinks into despair
This is despair
We have everything to lose

This is – do not pass the picket line
Unless you are ready to pass the checkpoint
Unless you hurled the first rock
Grazed the desert for a crust of bread
Squeezed your body through the revolving doors before the school bell rang

This is young girl carries school bag at barred roads
Soldiers camouflage and rupture kindergarten recess with rifles and
The children learn not to flinch 

This is you will never understand because you have never lived it

This is beyond dialogue 

Resist the bullet wherever it is fired

Let them drown in the bricks of their cities
Knowing the hands who cemented them together 

True people of the land live and cultivate the revolution
This is the labour of the fellah
Limbs and land and roots – one and the same

This is
Charge the world
Quiet despair fills the cup
Evens the rations

Come walk the line of despair
March with them

This is the battle of Karameh
Against the citadel
Refuse to be their appendage 

This is a wall that speaks
The chain that breaks
The lost sandal at the end of the Great March of Return

Do not bargain at their expense
Rip the propaganda to shreds

This is a life worth living
This is a life worth living
This is a life worth living

The people have spoken

We are not the property of empire

They cannot tip the scales now

This is the people united
This is the people united

This is the revolution



Revolution must mean being silent enough to hear the tired heartbeats of the earth
Follow their blueprint
The footprints of the merchants
Whose ceramics colour the streets of Al Khalil

Revolution must mean we do not normalize shaking the hand that points the gun
Spills the blood
Builds the walls
Eats the soil
Without knowing her name

Revolution must mean
Tilling the land with spoons for tunnels
Maximum security cannot contain this
Continue to walk the long intifada

Revolution must mean no false promises
Palestine transcends symbols and resolutions
Knock down the walls that suffocate Qalqilya
Cameras capture struggles daily
Expose the nerve 
Shatter their screens

Revolution must mean
A blow to the head
Of the ministries
A politician who speaks of peace
A “beacon of hope”
A state that obliterates life?
Is that hope?

The simple truth
The same state that utilizes labour to build their democracy
Manufactures the weapons of our destruction collectively

In the belly of the beast
We are afforded more than life itself
We must show reverence for those whose hands crack open
When they knock on the gates of empire

Remember that the soul hums towards the direction of the sun
This is men in the sun
People who wake up every dawn with the will to live

Poetry our armoury
Our currency
Our weaponry

To love for the revolution
Means to change the trajectory
Everyday people
Everyday martyrs 
Sacrificial for survival
We work
To eat
To salvage
To graze

Revolution must mean that the truth always washes ashore

Notes on “Revolution Must Mean Life”:

The line “Resist the bullet wherever it is fired” is after Ghassan Kanafani’s remark: “Imperialism has laid its body over the world, the head in Eastern Asia, the heart in the Middle East, its arteries reaching Africa and Latin America. Wherever you strike it, you damage it, and you serve the world revolution.”

fellah is a transliteration of the Arabic word meaning “farmer” or (plural fellahin) “village agriculturalists,” whose lives are inextricably intertwined with the land and their stewardship.

The Great March of Return was a series of demonstrations held each Friday near the Gaza border from March 30, 2018, until December 27, 2019. Palestinians demanded the right of return and the end of the siege on Gaza. 214 Palestinians were killed and more than 36,100 were injured by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF).


“Revolution Must Mean Life,” the poem above, is excerpted from a larger multimedia piece that was featured in the Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts in May 2022. This work was envisioned and supported through a series of interviews with organizers from Labour4Palestine on Turtle Island and organizers on the ground in Palestine, situated in Al Khalil, Nablus, Qalqilya, and Ramallah. View the full piece here.

With poetry at the core, this project weaves together film, music, installation, and performance. Tracing the “crevice between hope and despair,” a space that Palestinians know all too well, the work presents a glimpse into the intersections of the labour movement and the Palestinian liberation movement. The project amplifies a collective call to action from Labour4Palestine that transcends BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) resolutions and highlights the central role of workers’ struggles in the resistance against the Zionist regime. This work was envisioned and supported through a series of interviews with organizers from Labour4Palestine on Turtle Island and organizers on the ground in Palestine, situated in Al Khalil, Nablus, Qalqilya, and Ramallah.

The violent attacks on Palestinians throughout 2021 exposed realities of settler colonialism, apartheid, and occupation in ways the world could no longer shy away from. Taking the lead from Palestinians on the ground, dockworkers to labour unionists mobilized en masse against the ongoing oppressive systems of occupation, ethnic cleansing, and land theft. Revolution Must Mean Life explores the power of the people and all the ways that they create cracks, breaks, and fissures within an oppressive system.

The following Arabic translation of the Revolution Must Mean Life excerpt above is by Laura Albast.


الجزء  ٢: الحاجز الأول 


هذا نَسَب غير مقيّد

أغاني الأسرى مهربة إلى ما أبعد من الأماكن الضيقة 

تعضُّ القضبان المعدنية والجدران

منها خُلِقَت قصائد المقاومة 


غير عالقة

غير متشابكة

غير مكسورة


هذا الربح يأكل التراب، يأكل الإنس، يُولِمُ على الرصاص

جُعِلَ ساميًا

عمالٌ ليس لديهم شيدٌ سوى عملهم


حظر التخلي والاستيلاء

اعتقدوا بأنهم ربحوا بعد ٤٨


هذا ربحٌ يأكل التراب، يَغرقُ الإنس في اليأس

هذا هو اليأس

لدينا كل شيء لنخسره


هذا – لا تتجاوز خط الاعتصام

ما لم تكن مستعدًا لاجتياز الحاجز

إلّا إذا رميت الصخرة الأولى

رعت الصحراءِ للحصول على قشرة من الخبز

عصرت جسمك عبر الأبواب الدوارة قبل رنين جرس المدرسة


هذه فتاة صغيرة تحمل حقيبة مدرسية عند طرقات مغلقة

يُمَوِهُ ويُمَزِقُ الجنود ساعة الفرصة في الروضة بالبنادق و

يتعلم الأطفال ألّا يجفلوا


هذا ما لن تفهمه أبدًا لأنك لم تعشهُ أبدًا


هذا أبعدُ من الحوار


قاوم الرصاصة أينما تُطْلَقُ


ليغرقوا في قرميد مدنهم

وهم يعرفون الأيدي التي ألصقتهم ببعض


شعب الأرض الحقيقي يعيش ويزرع الثورة

هذا عمل الفلاح

أطرافٌ وأرضٌ وجذور – نفس الشيء




اتهِمُوا العالم

يأسٌ هادئ يملأ الكأس

يسوي الحصص



تعالَ وامشي على خط اليأس

سِر معهم



هذه هي معركة الكرامة

ضد القلعة

ارفضوا أن تكون تابعين لهم


هذا جدارٌ يتحدث

السلسلة التي تنكسر

الصندل المفقود في نهاية مسيرة العودة الكبرى 


لا تساوموا على حسابهم

مزقوا البروباغاندا إلى أشلاء

هذه حياةٌ نستحق أن نعيشها


هذه حياةٌ نستحق أن نعيشها

هذه حياةٌ نستحق أن نعيشها


نحن لسنا مِلكًا للإمبراطورية


لا يمكنهم أن يقلبوا الموازين الآن


هذا هو الشعب المتحد

هذا هو الشعب المتحد


هذه هي الثورة



الجزء ٣: على الثورة أن تعني الحياة (تبعًا لليلى خالد) 



يجب أن تعني الثورة أن نصمت لنسمع دقات قلب الأرض

الحقوا مخططهم

آثار أقدام التجار

الذين لوَّن خزفهم شوارع الخليل



يجب أن تعني الثورة أننا لا نطبِّعُ مصافحة اليدِ التي توجِهُ المسدس

تُسيلُ الدم

تبني الجدران

تأكلُ التراب

دون أن تَعرِفَ اسمه


يجب أن تعني الثورة

حرث الأرض بالملاعق للأنفاق

لن يستطيع أقصى قدر من الأمن أن يحتوي

واصلوا في سيرِ الانتفاضة الطويلة 


يجب ألا تعني الثورة أي وعود كاذبة

تتجاوز فلسطين الرموز والقرارات

أُهدموا الجدران التي تخنق قلقيلية

تلطقتُ الكاميرات النضالَ يوميًا

اكشفوا العصب

حطموا شاشاتهم



يجب أن تعني الثورة

ضربة على رأس


السياسيُ الذي يتحدثُ عن السلام

“منارة الأمل”

دولةٌ تمحي الحياة؟

هل هذا الأمل؟



الحقيقة البسيطة

نفس الدولة التي تستخدم اليد العاملة لبناء ديمقراطيتها

تقوم بصنع أسلحة دمارنا الجماعي



في بطن الوحش

مُنِحنَا أكثر من الحياة نفسها

يجب أن نظهر تقديسًا لأولئك الذين تنفتح أيديهم عندما يطرقون على البوابات



تذكروا أن الروح تُدَندِنُ في اتجاه الشمس

هذا رجالٌ في الشمس

أولئك الذين يستيقظون كل فجرٍ بإرادة الحياة


الشِعرُ لدينا مستودع أسلحة




أن تُحبَّ للثورة 

يعني أن تغيير المسار

ناس كل يوم

شهداء كل يوم

تضحية من أجل البقاء






يجب أن تعني الثورة بأن الحقيقة دائمًا ما تنجرفُ على اليابسة

 في النهاية

Translation: Laura Albast 

Maysam Ghani is a Muslim Palestinian poet, educator, and organizer based in Tkaronto. In her work, she explores questions of Palestinian resistance and Indigenous futurities. Her work has been featured in the Ghassan Kanafani Resistance Arts Anthology (2019; 2020), and at the Palestine Writes Festival on a panel titled “Architects of Our Narrative” for emerging Palestinian writers.