Inside Out by Zeina Hashem Beck

The late great Liverpool football manager Bill Shankly had many famous sayings that are repeated to this day. The one that struck me growing up was, “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” Although I have followed football all my life, I have rarely, if ever Palestine-Logo-Bigworn my team’s shirt. For one, I didn’t want to get beaten up by any wayward away fans; and two, I have never liked the tribal allegiance element of the game nor the violence that lies behind it.

Football is also not devoid of influencing national politics to the point of igniting armed conflict as was the case in 1969 between Honduras and El Salvador. The political map influences where teams will play; most notable being that the Israeli national team and its clubs compete in Europe. The Palestinian team was only recognised by FIFA in 1998, but has great potential despite the political and social conditions that surround it. I bought the Palestinian football shirt, as a small act of support when at the large protest march against the war in Gaza last year.

Zeina's PhotoOf course, football is a passion among many people in Gaza and the West Bank, and Zeina Hashem Beck puts that into stark perspective in her heart-breaking poem Inside Out, where she paints a scene of Gaza under attack during the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. “my friend’s mom in Gaza is cheering/for Brazil and Holland/all that orange/burning almost/a sunrise all that/smoke”. Zeina goes back and forth from the football to the terrible scene unfolding, “there’s an old woman/who dies holding/her spoon waiting/for iftar/which comes but so do/the rockets/and the news/Brazil loses to Germany 7-1”. The poem continues without punctuation reflecting the relentless nature of the Israeli bombardment, until the end of the tournament when, “a player kisses a trophy/his wife his son/a mother/kisses a dead child/grief inside out/is resistance” Like Laila Sumpton’s poem ‘Morning Prayers’, Zeina juxtaposes the everyday events we take for granted, such as watching a football match with the tragic situation in which Palestinian people live, in a wholly different type of everyday event.

Zeina Hashem Beck is a Lebanese poet whose first collection, To Live in Autumn (The Backwaters Press, 2014), has won the 2013 Backwaters Prize. It was also a runner up for the Julie Suk Award, a category finalist for the 2015 Eric Hoffer Awards, and has been included on Split This Rock’s list of recommended poetry books for 2014. She’s been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, and her poems have been published in various literary magazines, among which are Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, Nimrod, The Common, Mizna, Rattle, The Midwest Quarterly, Mslexia, and Magma. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Dubai, where she regularly performs her poetry and runs the poetry and open collective PUNCH.

Inside Out
(For Gaza, July 2014)

people inside out
on the streets in their loved ones’
arms people screaming
in football stadiums
my friend’s mom in Gaza is cheering
for Brazil and Holland
all that orange
burning almost
a sunrise all that
smoke
there’s an old woman
who dies holding
her spoon waiting
for iftar
which comes but so do
the rockets
and the news
Brazil loses to Germany 7-1
ABC News confuses Israel and Palestine
the whole dichotomy
occupied/
occupier inside
out
out
Holland loses
a girl not yet
one
wrapped in a flag
flags wrapped
around cars necks shoulders heads
in Gaza God
is the eyes
of a little doll kicked
among the rubble
eyes follow a ball
kicked in mid-air
a roof collapses
houses inside out
one bride postpones
her wedding
the game goes into
extra time
shelters there are no shelters
shield yourself with
your hands your voice
i haven’t slept since
yesterday writes Anas go ahead
and bombard july 13th
he dies the next day
a player kisses a trophy
his wife his son
a mother
kisses a dead child
grief inside out
is resistance
the crowds wave
at the victorious team
a whole family stands
on the roof waving
at the enemy’s planes

(Previously published on Electronic Intifada, September, 2014)

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