Song the Songbird Sings

It was another Friday morning
I was among the olive trees
Out looking for birds to catch
My father, his friends and me
I had my string and net
And a nimble eye
There beside the farmers’ fields
Where the songbirds fly

When you’re catching birds
The world disappears
And a thousand songs of autumn
Are all that fills your ears
They sing their songs so brightly
At the dawning of the day
They fly back and forth over the fence
Where we must stay away

You can see the birds beneath the clouds
Watch them spread their wings
Listen to the wind
And the song the songbird sings

It’s so good to come here
So far from all the sound
Of all the shooting and the shouting
And the tanks upon the ground
I just wish I could live here
Within this olive grove
Just me, my friends and family
And a small wood-burning stove


Last week I caught three sparrows
It was quite a day
Now I’m bound for glory
That’s what they say
I hear them talk about me
Shedding tears upon a sack
Inside there lies a child
With four bullets in his back


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Song the Songbird Sings

“Song the Songbird Sings” originally appeared on Songs for Mahmud (CD, 2004) and later on Falasteen, Habibti (CD and Bandcamp album, 2014).

I wrote this song after reading about the death of Mahmud Al-Qayyed, age 10, in Gaza, for the “crime” of catching songbirds too close to the militarized fence that separates Gaza from Israel.  Mahmud was only one of many children killed for the same reasons, in the same circumstances.  Songbirds can be sold at the market, and owning them is popular, so catching songbirds is a thing.

Incidentally, the detail about the stove is real, it’s not something I just randomly threw in there.  It was from the article I read, and the reporter was there in Gaza reporting real details, which is what this and most of my other songs about real events are based on, unless I’m writing about something I actually witnessed first-hand.