Queen from the Street

Guest contribution by Karimah Al-Helew

Bil’in, Palestine. Salted Paper Print. Summer 2011. Photo credit: Thawab

While volunteering in the West Bank, I often came across the same woman. She was always smiling, always walking, and radiant. Despite her obvious age, she was timeless. Oftentimes she would carry a heavy sack on her head, hunching her over. I was always amazed by her almost-in-half-gait and how she made it appear seamless. Royalty. All I could think of when I would see her was true royalty.

Flowing trees roam the plain like they’re just meant to be
Emerald, olive, sage and sea
Every lush symbol of green, enchanting eyes of those who embrace the land that feeds
Knee high ribbons whistle through the clear, caressing breeze
Respectful proposals come from her bended knees
And she gave them with no selfish sighs or second thoughts or resounding reverie
For your trust I will work until you deem that I have earned
I will sift the dust between my hands until beneath my nails there is the permanent mark of dirt
I promise I will love you with every sift and every turn
For the earth she never asks, she but serves
And green,
Green stained thumbs, flowing from withered arms and crooked backs,
Reminiscent of book binds. Closed neatly but meant to be opened.
Read me.
She walks, you can’t see her if you don’t look.
But she is the strongest woman I see in the street.
Sitting on her heels, resting while the rest rush imperceptive to the queen that is she
The light turns green, the color her soft eyes gleam when she looks up to smile at me.
She has no shoes upon her bare, gnarled feet.
And the sack upon her head, weighs easily twice as much as me.
But she, she walks like a spring because this is no strung out choreography.
And her heart sings because she knows this beat.

Karimah Al-Helew

Karimah Al-Helew was born and raised in San Jose, California and graduated from San Jose State University with a degree in Social Work and a Minor in Political Science. She recently volunteered in the West Bank with Project Hope, an organization that works to create a safe space for Palestinian people of all ages.  She spent her time in Palestine teaching English, Spanish, creative writing, coaching soccer and living with family.


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