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What Is Not Allowed by Richard Tillinghast

June 22, 2010

From Irish Times. Richard Tillinghast is an American poet who lives in Co Tipperary. He is the author of eight books of poetry, the latest of which is Selected Poems (Dedalus Press, 2010), as well as several works of non-fiction.

No tinned meat is allowed, no tomato paste,
no clothing, no shoes, no notebooks.
These will be stored in our warehouses at Kerem Shalom
until further notice.

Bananas, apples, and persimmons are allowed into Gaza,
peaches and dates, and now macaroni
(after the American Senator’s visit).
These are vital for daily sustenance.
But no apricots, no plums, no grapes, no avocados, no jam.
These are luxuries and are not allowed.

Paper for textbooks is not allowed.
The terrorists could use it to print seditious material.
And why do you need textbooks
now that your schools are rubble?
No steel is allowed, no building supplies, no plastic pipe.
These the terrorists could use to launch rockets
against us.

Pumpkins and carrots you may have,
but no delicacies,
no cherries, no pomegranates, no watermelon, no onions,
no chocolate.
We have a list of three dozen items that are allowed,
but we are not obliged to disclose its contents.
This is the decision arrived at
by Colonel Levi, Colonel Rosenzweig, and Colonel Segal.
Our motto:
‘No prosperity, no development, no humanitarian crisis.’

You may fish in the Mediterranean,
but only as far as three km from shore.
Beyond that and we open fire.
It is a great pity the waters are polluted –
twenty million gallons of raw sewage dumped into the sea every day
is the figure given.
Our rockets struck the sewage treatments plants,
and at this point spare parts to repair them are not allowed.

As long as Hamas threatens us,
no cement is allowed, no glass, no medical equipment.
We are watching you from our pilotless drones
as you cook your sparse meals over open fires
and bed down
in the ruins of houses destroyed by tank shells.

And if your children can’t sleep,
missing the ones who were killed in our incursion,
or cry out in the night, or wet their beds
in your makeshift refugee tents,
or scream, feeling pain in their amputated limbs –
that’s the price you pay for harbouring terrorists.
God gave us this land.
A land without a people for a people without a land.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 22, 2010 11:21 pm

    I remember when I first read this – apart from being overcome by the absurdity of the world – it reminded me of another poem, from a book called ‘Oral’; I hope it’s not a copyright infringement to post it here XD It’s also very English, so I’m not sure how well it translates across the pong pond:

    At This Time, by Adam Horovitz

    Statistics not available.
    Plans and applications not available.
    Photocopied reports from bloody depths of bureaucracy
    not available.
    Orchards not available.
    Aspirin not available.
    Pleasant valley walks not available.
    Childhood available elsewhere.

    Sunday school not available.
    Imagination not available.
    Cider presses not available.
    Big dogs with grotty noses
    not available.
    Kissing gates not available.
    Beer not available.
    Reporters only available if beer available.

    Books not available.
    Economists not available.
    Bare-footed taxmen no longer available.
    Miffed of Miserden not available.
    Sculptors not available.
    Cowslips not available.
    Pools to drown in not available.
    Sewage and concrete available always
    if price is right.

    Prices not available.
    Wallets not available.
    Poets and anarchist not available
    except for lecture tours in far countries
    with big wars.
    England wicket keepers not available.
    Trees not available.
    Sunsets not available.
    Badgers not available unless peanuts paid for.
    Bungalows available at all times.

    Pig-farmers not available.
    Sheep not available.
    Locals not available for comment or otherwise.
    Telephones available, but not as available as vandals.
    Chaffinches not available.
    Torches not available or necessary.
    Bicycles not available.
    N.C.P car park available on old pub site.

    BBC film crews and other archaeologists available.
    Holographic Laurie Lee available.
    Midsummer morning traffic-log available.
    Small chunks of Cotswold stone available.
    Mortgages available.
    Rustic 1930s charm available
    from staff of three storey theme restaurant
    on request.
    Chartered helicopter flights available.

    ‘Cider with Disney’ available.
    Sex in aforementioned bungalows available.
    Prices available for that.

    Prime minister available for facile speeches
    about importance of countryside
    and visits from Presidents.
    Jilly Cooper available.
    Jilly Cooper available.

    Explosives not available.


  2. Maryam permalink
    June 23, 2010 11:25 am

    at the end of each poem the absurdity of the words “allowed” and “available” becomes very very distinct.

  3. June 23, 2010 12:13 pm

    Speaking of absurd, more than half the residents of Gaza are children. Yes, dangerous, dangerous children, who should never, under any circumstances, be allowed a plum.

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