Dawah by Charles Tisdale



The family of a 33-year-old Palestinian pharmacist
from Beit Hanina donated his organs for transplant


The Jerusalem Post
June 5, 2001, Tuesday


The Israeli Police investigating
His murder say the shooting resulted
From a dispute with another Palestinian.
I am his daughter. I know better. He was
Delivering some pills for an infection
To the Shuafat Camp. Someone was to pick
Them up at the shop. No one will admit
To anything. There was a scuffle, I guess,
But my father was a peaceful man.


I can’t decide if I should go to school
Next week, after the mourning. The funeral
Is tomorrow at Al Aqsa. I can see
It down there, the golden dome, looking
Like Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac
All over again, the same spot where
The Prophet went away into the heavens.
He was thirty-three years old and this
The eight month of the Aksa Intifada.


She gave me a cup of juice, the nurse did,
But I couldn’t drink it in front of mother.
I brought it out here, on the balcony,
Overlooking the city. We had another
Bombing yesterday. The sun is setting
And I can see it shimmering off the dome
Into my cup into my eyes into the inmost
Part of me. Soon the Adhaan will call out
To kneel for the evening prayer to Mecca.


We rushed to Hadassah because there was
Nowhere else to go and my aunt had been
Having dialysis here. We were not sure
At first, whether the Koran allows such
Cleansing, for even a kidney is sacred.
But father said we must show Dawah
In this, and now for him we must answer.
A woman Tamar came out to meet us
And said she had something important


To ask us. As I am drinking this cup
Of juice I swear a woman’s life is mostly
Spent flowing somewhere, giving and receiving,
In milk, and blood, and honey. A young girl
Knows this before a young boy can even
Think for himself. For me it was last summer
And now my father’s blood––the doctor said
He was brain dead––congealed on the sterile
Bandage, ruddy like the Jordan flooding.


The Jewish woman Tamar was sitting
With us at the table near the snack bar.
She explained how it was the hospital’s
Policy to speak with the family about
Possibly donating organs. At first
My brothers did not know what to tell her.
All the time I kept saying to myself
We must give my father up. And so they
Did, tell them to take away the life support––


The heart pumping machine, the artificial
Lungs, the fluids––so they did tell her
To give my father away. Mother asked
If the hospital would allow his organs
For anyone, and the woman Tamar answered
Her that the authorities never agree
To limit recipients. All she could say
Was that my father was a suitable donor.
That made me think of how a Jew could have


Dawah, too, how they might take from death
To give more life. My father was dropping off
Some pills to stop an infection. Revenge
And Dawah could go together, his love
For me spilling out into the body
Of the murderer. We are Joulianis––
The name he left as mine––his liver now
Probably already becoming a Jew
At the Rabin Center, in a sterile box


His heart rushing by helicopter
To the Sheba Hospital at Tel Hashomer,
His pancreas in a jar waiting to be
Put in a Hebrew stomach at Ichilov,
One kidney here at Hadassah, the other
They are sewing up now in a little boy
No older than myself. The Koran says
Our men must fight a Holy War. Dawah
Is this revenge I have to spread around


My father’s spirit, the risk a woman takes
When she marries, when she unveils herself,
When she has a baby. The little body
Grows inside herself, half an organ she can
Never give up, half she knows not Mohammed’s
Child, or Jahweh’s, Muslim or Jew, whether
He will heal or kill. The woman Tamar
Insists it is not the hospital’s policy
To give my father’s organs only


To Arabs, and it is easy to see that
Most of their patients are Hebrew here.
But what if when I am twenty I should
Dare to kiss someone with my father’s heart?
Or what if my uncle one day delivers
Another prescription of pills to fight
Off the infection to the same coffee house
At Shuafat and he is shot by a man
Holding my father’s breath inside?


Or what if the little boy with his kidney
Should prophesy the end? I am trying
To think Dawah is not a golden dome
But the Jordan flowing like a girl I am
Hoping all are doing well with healthy
Organs as many as the stars of the sky
And the sands along the seashore. I am
Hoping the parts of five Jews will not find
It so hard to make peace with themselves.

Charles Tisdale has published poems in more than eighty reputable magazines such as The Antioch ReviewThe Michigan Quarterly ReviewThe Notre Dame ReviewThe Tampa Review, and The Denver Quarterly. He has won an Honorable Mention in the Nimrod Pablo Neruda International Contest, and has been long listed in several others. He has written several poems set in Middle Eastern Countries based on newspaper articles printed in the Jerusalem Post. He won the Antigonish Review Blue Pelican Contest in 2012 for one of these, "Awrah", whose speaker is an Egyptian young woman. The poem here being published by Breakwater Review, set in Israel, is a companion piece. Charles Tisdale has conducted seminars in Disease as Metaphor and Metamorphosis at UNC Greensboro. He also teaches Latin and Photography in a rural Charter Middle School.


"Dawah" was chosen as a finalist for the 2015 Peseroff Prize. Judge Jill McDonough admired "the sharp, clear-eyed narrative ... a fresh, complicating perspective showing 'his liver now/Probably already becoming a Jew.’”


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