this is not a hotel: prison sketches part two

January 28, 2009 § Leave a comment

bathtime in the sink

bathtime in the sink

this is not a hotel

this is not a hotel


guard at the door

guard at the door

the russian family

the russian family
the janitor visit

the janitor visit


hanging laundry

hanging laundry

this is not a hotel: prison sketches part one

January 28, 2009 § 1 Comment

the guards wouldnt let me have a pen or pencil in prison.  so after we got out and arrived in amsterdam i spent the first couple of days writing out my experience in israeli prison and making some sketches of my time there.  the writings i have already posted for the most part.  and here are the beginning of the sketches that i did in ballpoint pen and graph paper.

the lil graph paper journal was a christmas gift from our friend suzanna.  i wrote front and back in that journal for two days and filled every page.

how do you make a rainbow in hell

how do you make a rainbow in hell



aza at the metal door

aza at the metal door

natasha huddled in bed

natasha huddled in bed

aza in jeans

aza in jeans

looking out the window

looking out the window

aza and a plastic chair

aza and a plastic chair

this is not a hotel: the prison guards

January 27, 2009 § 2 Comments

when in israeli prison i try to make a joke with the you monsters.  but your  english just isnt that good.  the american accent sounds like a lazy fold in the heart.

but did you choose this job? or was this the only job left? you yell at me for not leaving the prison but you locked the door from the inside.

you have to be ruthless to do this job.  you have to be sandpaper.  you have to push your eyes into your hands and refuse to admit that you are blind.

this is not a hotel.  it is a cemetary.  where you the dead guard living with threats and cocked fingers, with gutturral words.  the bunk beds are rickety, rusted, rattling. a posada print where the the the prison guards smiles are skeletal papier mache puppets and no one is allowed to burst the pinata.  poisoned candy. urine soaked blankets.  plastic wrapped food. once a day you come to threaten us.  this is a dance with the beloved.  spinning.  spinning. to find a center.  a strain of human dna in the jungle where the monsters are. my daughter stares at you wide eyed.

instead you ask questions you wont let me answer. the heart is always a lonely hunter here. and my daughter and i refuse to be mute.  like the tip of the knife, tip of the pen, tip of a bomb, the heart is dangerous in prison

this is a no man’s land.  no laws govern us.  no heart.  no grace.  just following orders.

this is a broken version of hell.  but you wont break me.  i am a witch. back up or  get burnt.  like a daughter in gaza you are bombing with phosphorous clouds of light billowing into the sky like laundry on the line.

no pens, knives, bags, phone calls, questions, answers, forgiveness, order

you close down gaza.  then open a cease fire.   with a lock that doesnt have a key.

just me and my baby girl locked in a room.  bright lights always on.  i drape mattress covers around the bunk bed like thick mosquito netting. i tell you we need an angel in this hell. you come back with dead food.

the screams of an eight month pregnant african woman rocking on her hips. this blackness floats around my head–like stars pulling open the center of the sky.  nothing here is breathing unless it has to.  this heart, my hands are heavy pulling my head to the floor.  there is no place to rest the ribcage.  it folds into an origami swan and lies on its right wing, cock eyed, with sharp edges.

13 israelis dead
1300 palestinians dead
and a cease fire as stable as a childs paper plane in the wind

i cross my chest and mouth the hail only let us out of the room to show us how locked in we really are.   baby girl spins between the bunk beds singing the alphabet to herself: a.b.r.q.s.z…

she climbs onto the bed.  shuts her eyes.  takes a couple of deep breaths.  and then laughs hard into the belly of her stuffed doll.  drags the to doll  the floor . pats the doll’s back while whispering–shhh–then tucks the doll under the blankets.

night night.

its time to go to sleep.

this is not a hotel: day three

January 27, 2009 § 1 Comment

the third day:

i am awakened by muted voices in the room next to mine.  the austrian-nigerians tilted accent through the walls.

as i am rocking aza awake a bullish man walks into the room asks my name and introduces himself as yacob.  he proceeds to yell at me that i will get on a plane tomorrow no matter what.  they will physically force me if they have to.  he doesnt care about the kid.  he will handcuff me.  and whatever happens to the kid will be my fault not his fault.  i did this.  not him.  i continue rocking aza.  i start to tell him that i dont want to be here.  i am trying to leave.  the guards fucked up my ticket and my luggage.  and then refused to talk to me and so i really want to leave and–

–i dont care, he says.

later that morning as aza is watching cartoons, the guards attack the austrian-nigerian couple.  i hear loud voices-the screams of ‘leave my wife!’ ,  ‘i am pregnant’ the knocks of limbs against the wall.  ‘you have no right!’ the wail.  i turn down the television.  and take peeks out of my window.  there are 5 or 6 guards amassing infront of the open door, one has a video camera. more yelling.  i cant see inside of the room. i cant believe that they are video taping this.  and yet it was when i see the guard carrying a video camera that i become scared for them.  aza starts to whimper, i turn the cartoons back on.  they drag the husband out of the room.  i pray the hail mary for them and their unborn child.  they lock her into a different cell.  as i am being escorted to yacob’s office i hear her yell: you treat us like animals!

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this is not a hotel: the second day

January 26, 2009 § Leave a comment

the second day:
natasha gets up and dresses up in a red coat with a cute flair at the hips and slicks her sons hair with water. they  go to the prison guards and talks to the guards in russian.  she comes back to the room.  lays on the bed and cries some more.  refuses to make eye contact with me or aza.  looks guilty.  i dont know exactly what she said to them but i know that she just sold me out.  soon after the guard invites she and her son to hang out with her husband in the hall smoking cigarettes in between Maxime’s coughs for a couple of hours.  she returns to the room. takes a nap.  her soft head is aching.
while she is sleeping, her son starts flipping aza off.  pervert. she squeals and walks over to him and grins and then walks a little closer and grins and the whole time he is inching back in the little plastic lawn chair and she just grins and suddenly i see that this is a slow attack punctuated with her giggles and his coughs of fear.  i swoop down and grab aza.  she is going to hex him. a jail baby patching wings together out of his pale skin. watch out boy-she loves to fly.
after Natasha’s nap  the guards offer her another room if she would like it.  they dont bother to say goodbye.  just hustle and crouch out of the room.

they only let us out of the room to show us how locked in we really are.  so baby girl spins in circles between the bunk beds singing the alphabet to herself: a.b.r.q.s.z…sounds like she is sight reading alphabet soup

i pass the austrian-nigerians room quickly as i am being escorted to my luggage in the basement.  i give them a quick wave.  i find only a couple of diapers in my bags so i grab some of my panties and maxipads.  the guards say that they did not have diapers and i cant ask el compa if he has any and the guards cant ask el compa if he has any.   i tie the panties tight to aza’s pelvic bone and then slip in a pad.  aza looks at me and says ‘diaper’.  i move her onto the blankets or at least off my lap and onto the floor.  the pad only holds about a third of the urine.  the rest slips down her leg and puddles on the floor and blankets.  i press a dirty towel on the puddle to soak it up. and hang the towel on the rail of the bunk bed to dry. i change her pants and panties and sanitary pad. hang them on the bed to dry too.  i assure her that bathing in urine is good for the skin.

dear natasha: do not complain about my daughter crying when you cried more than she did.  and she is 20 months old.  still wearing huggies and jabbing her fingers to her lips when she is hungry.  these guards are sadist and you play the masochist to the hilt of a sword.  the lady in the lake with a blond wig.

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this is not a hotel: the first day

January 26, 2009 § 3 Comments

the first day:

we arrive at the tel aviv, israel airport.  after a couple of hours they deny us entry to the country and insist on sending us back to the states.  we ask to speak to our embassy.  the airport folks tell us that we will have to go to detention if we want to talk to the embassy.  and off we go.

first stop in detention, we meet the basement gremlin, slick black hair, thick horn rimmed glasses, no older than 30 and with a posture that makes his spine look like a jungle gym.  he sits with the luggage, watches cable.  his veins flow nicotine.  he looks like you just caught him masturbating behind his desk and he’s not embarrassed to be causght.  just a creepy smile and beady eyes behind layers of thick spectacles.
baby girl and i share a room with a platinum blond russian mama, natasha, and her elementary school-age son, maxime.  our husbands are sharing a separate room.  she cries for hours.  hiccups and tears.  maxime has a cold.  there is a grey blue inhaler next to the cough medicine.  all of their medicines have hebrew writing.
she offers aza a strwberry, a cookie, chocolate, corn chips, potato chips.  i gather the bits of food on our side of the table.  aza takes a quick and passing interest in each offering and then returns to her games.  she cries.  she laughs.  she dances.  she climbs into my lap.  she slides off.
a piece of bread, a smile, introductions.  aza and i huddle on one bunk bed.  natasha and her son, on the other.
a pregnant black woman stops me in the hallway.  we are from austria.  our passports are austrian.  they think that they are fake passports because we are black.  they want to send us off to austria but keep our passports.  i told them fine.  send me to austria but give us our passports.  my husband tole them this is the reason that the arabs are bombing you.  this is too much stress. i told them i am 8 months pregnant and if i give birth here they will have to pay the medical bills.

she says: they hate us because we are black.

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first days in cairo

January 26, 2009 § Leave a comment

1. we arrived saturday night.  as we were riding in the taxi to the hotel, aza was getting cranky and so i said to her: welcome to africa.  and she quieted down relaxed her mouth and opened her eyes wider to take in the nightscape of cars zooming passed.


saw this on aljazeera yesterday

3.  cairo is busy full of people ancient egypt kitsch, buildings that are never finished being built.  dusty. car horns and construction tools.  warm weather.  i had missed the third world badly.  the elegant chaos.  the burgeoning

4.  we are staying with friends with whom we hung out in jerusalem.  they are working with east african refugees in cairo.  their apartment is cute.  reminds me of my mothers interior decorating in the 80s.  stylish, afro-centric, colorful.   perhaps i can convince my mother to visit egypt.


saw this on aljazeera today…

6.  i am learning how to negotiate a stroller through crazy traffic, sidewalks that glide into no sidewalks.  i find myself directing traffic with one hand while guiding the stroller…

7. watched mtv arabia last night.  i think that mtv arabia thinks that all hip hop songs should have a minimum amount of deleted words and if there arent enough ‘bad words’ in the song to be deleted they should just start deleting random words.  words in hip hop songs that were deleted last night: feather, star, bring it…

8.  even though i wasnt allowed into israel/palestine, i am really excited about the future.  although i miss the west bank.  next time i go to palestine, fuck israel, i will go on a boat to gaza.  `

9. its the lunar new year!  the annular solar eclipse!  new moon in aquarius! last year was a roller coaster.  crazy rat.

in amsterdam

January 25, 2009 § 2 Comments

1. exhausted. exhausted. exhausted.  i hate that i am so wired and tired simultaneously. crazy flight from amsterdam to cairo today.  we arrived 2:30 am in cairo.  then had to negotiate taxi prices with overzealous drivers.

2. amsterdam is like a little piece of heaven.  we ended up spending about 5 days.  a very cute city with lots of bicycles and bicycle lanes and bicycle parking.  lots of pedestrian streets. the first day i basically slept and took a short walk through the center.  the second day i slept as well and went slowly about our day.  it is an incredibly ethnically diverse city.  in the airport i saw two other couples that consisted of white male, black female, biracial kid. and when el compa and aza were out walking someone asked el compa if aza’s mother was african-american…that never happens.  maybe obama will turn the us into amsterdam…

3. i spent alot of time in amsterdam writing about my experience in israeli detention center.  and drawing it with ball point pens and graph paper.  so i will be posting more about it soon now that i have some first drafts.

4.  i did not take the tour of the red light district. it seems strange to go tour sex workers.  it is a similar feeling i get about going to a zoo (which i have not been to since i was in elementary school)…

5. aza squealed and pointed out every baby and every puppy that we passed in amsterdam.  oh and fish too.  she loves fish.

6. thank you for all of your support.

hotel israeli prison

January 22, 2009 § 3 Comments

we are in amsterdam.  feeling much better than we have in a few days.  it is rainy and a bit chilly but my trusty red coat is working well.

we spent three days in israeli detention.  and then were shipped to amsterdam.

the tel aviv israeli detention center aka prison is a sadistic and warped place.  a netherworld.  a place that is considered to be not part of israel per se. the guards are almost all of russian origin kids who see too little light and take too many drugs.

i would have to take drugs too if i worked there.
at least there was mtv.

last day in scotland

January 14, 2009 § Leave a comment

all i have been thinking about recently is gaza.  gaza.  gaza.  i know that repetition is the death of good writing.  today i found out that the death toll has crossed the 1000 line.

some days we sat glued to the tv waiting for more news from gaza.  as the days passed the news became less and less.  here in the uk, the fact thtat thre years ago prince harry used a racial epiteth on video is bigger news.  we have determined that the royal family doing inane things is the uk version of the us’s ‘missing white women’ that always become huge news when something important is happening in the world.

the same footage rolls by and it becomes almost a colorful backdrop to paranoia and conversation.  the phosphorous lighting up the night time sky above gaza city.  the wide clouds of smoke lifted into the air like a bed sheet hanging on the clothes line.

theresa is trying to decide if she should go to cyprus or not to hop on the next free gaza boat heading to gaza.  there are delays to the boats departure.  and after the last free gaza boat with mc kinney on it was rammed three times by israeli navy, after the war seems to keep being ratcheted up, the stakes are higher and even more important.

the bedroom that we stole from jim is a mess.  clothes and bags everywhere.  sheets stripped from the bed.  roses dying in a beer bottle.

we spent an entire day watching volume one of heroes.  refused to watch the news.  a fantasy land of violence and moral ambiguity is easier to wrap my head around than the real land that feels so close- we are almost there.

last night aza screamed in her sleep and wouldnt wake up.  so i rocked her against my chest and laid her down. that is all i could do in that moment.  then i went back tothe television set and the images of children the same color as aza but bloodied. turned up the sound.

this is our last night here.

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