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No

Lisa Suhair Majaj

There’s no poetry in it,
but I need to say something about No,
how it stands up, no matter how unpopular,
in the face of injustice. Maybe it can’t
thwart history: the powerful have always known
what they can do, and they do it.
No can’t stop an avalanche.
But No could be a retaining wall
built of rough stones wrested from the earth,
carried one by one up the hill on someone’s back.
No might be a tree in the middle of a village street:
traffic shifts to flow around it, its presence
a reminder of what used to be, what won’t be
forgotten. No is the perimeter of stubborn cactus
springing up around destroyed villages.
You can bulldoze houses, evict or kill the inhabitants,
but the thorns of memory can’t be eliminated.
No knows what it’s like
to have nothing in its hands but dignity.