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22 June 2024

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dream/prayer for palestine – an exercise in historical memory

Hussein Mitha

my head tips from the highest ridge of the present’s catastrophe into sleep. i am dreaming of different times: al andalus, weimar, pre-1948 jerusalem…of the messy splendour of a shared world that reveals itself like an illustrated manuscript, or a jewel, or the layers of enchanted fashions in the street.  in dreaming my eyes are relieved from sedation caused by scrolling. images and texts once more flutter like birds. i had forgotten that eyes could tolerate such sparkle. in the quietest recesses of my mind i recall a sketch you made out of love: an old stone building in andalusia in winter at night, a room filled with neighbours, a mosaic of cinematic projections on the wall of a gathering, warm scarves, saffron-infused black tea. in the dream-setting, rosary beads turn in my fingers, each one a monad of remembrance through which we may be able to resuscitate the entire shared world of the past. the dream turns to prayer:

the way the physic and the psychic were drawn together in a combination of bodily resistance and prayer in the fervour of the struggle is the first of these remembrances;

the second bead: the lost conviencia of muslim spain;

the third bead: london, hanging over the motorway, an open wound filled with lights;

the fourth bead: your face beneath a classical greek mask made of plaster which flakes off and reveals not a face beneath but an oxygen mask, like my heart under these clothes, or my veins under this skin, or my hand under these gloves, a secret technology;

the fifth bead: a meditation on masks: masks beneath masks beneath masks, the mask of dionysus, the smiling god, the god who ‘comes from the east’ and ‘looks like a girl.’ greek culture is set up as a repression of asia, is a mask;

the sixth bead: the painful last days of al andalus, fervently reciting prayers with jews under the tree of ramon llull as we prepared for the exodus;

seventh: christ returning in the spanish inquisition, a political prisoner of the church, tortured and executed.

the eighth bead remembers the nakba as the reconquista; the expulsion of the muslims and jews in 1492, the source of all our woes;

the ninth bead encompasses some of the oldest written fragments of the qur’an inside the walls of  al aqsa, the paradise that hangs like a canopy between jerusalem and the sky;

the tenth bead, the injunction ‘read’;

the eleventh bead remembers the destroyed manuscripts, the ransacked libraries and archives, the anguish of stone, the rivers flowing with ink. pray the liquidation could turn to life.

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