Response to the Archive: وَادِي “wadi” by andrea a. gluckman

wadi   /ˈwädē/ (noun)
a valley, ravine, or channel that is dry except in the rainy season
I spent time in the Palestinian Occupied Territories doing a variety of work, much of it when I was much younger. I stayed with various families, but I developed a close kinship with one family in particular. One of the children, Nassim, had a thick, jagged scar around his torso, inflicted by occupying forces. Out of all the horrors I witnessed in my relatively short time there, that scar haunted me more than anything else–so deeply etched in a child’s skin. After reading Ashwaq’s powerful piece about the even further constriction of grief wrought by the pandemic in a place like Gaza, I thought again about Nassim’s scar. His grief was cut into his skin like a wadi, and I am wondering what will happen when the rainy season comes.

وَادِي “wadi” by andrea a. gluckman

his eyes are fixed

on battles visible and invisible–

a boy Janus whose gates never close,

living in a prison where the gates never open.


his smile is distressed and tight,

secured with tiny anchors

often sunk in the deep

of water and sand–

a child’s imagination

drowned in purgatory.


his body is still slight

an arrested child—

of disproportions

trying to hold back a tsunami

with tiny hands,

trying to create a shelter

from the violence he did not create.

not boy, not man,

(but tasked with both)

nassim is

the age of a life not



a jagged scar encircles


a thick fleshy wadi

engraved in new skin

for old wounds.

history’s rites of passage.

a constant reminder of

who he is

and who he is not,

after all,

a wadi is still a wadi, even if

it only rains once a season.


he blushes easily

and cries scarcely,

only in the privacy of

a musty blanket

shared with his baby sister on

the bedroom floor—

close to the safer wall, crumbling yet without windows—

janus cannot close the gates yet.


nassim does not speak


he chooses his words

with the delicacy of carrying

the pot of boiling water

across the camp

for his mother,

and with the pain

of pulling a field of barbs

out of fresh skin—




by moment,

by the memory

of a struggle

greater than him


greater than all of us.



the grace of a king

in surrender,

nassim seeks


to remain, by fighting

the ephemeral through


refusing to make

the sophie’s choice

between death by war and death by disease.

nassim knows there are no “better angels” at the gates—

here known as checkpoints–

he must be his own.


nassim sits silently

and traces the wadi,

his body’s map,


his way back home,

where some gates never close

and others will never open.


for nassim of the Palestinian Occupied Territories, age 11

All audio, text and images are under copyright © Neelum Films LLC


Comments (1)

  1. Lyn Miller

    So moving, dear friend! “Smile…secured with tiny anchors,” “chooses his words with the delicacy of carrying a pot of boiling water….,” “the age of a life not lived,” “refuses the Sophie’s choice”—wow. So beautiful and wrenching. May this tragedy and so many like it end. Bless you for bearing such eloquent witness!