Palestine in Newark

by Rachel Wagner

I was struck by this photograph of a scarecrow in Edward Said’s After the Last Sky. It’s made out of sticks, a piece of cloth, and a shoe, displayed alongside a wired fence. It’s described it as: “1979. Near a Bedouin encampment, a little kitchen garden—and it’s scarecrow.” I liked it I think because it was bleak. Something about the structure. How that’s all it took to seem human, to seem like a threatening object. Also it was about the ingenuity–who thought of that? That the bottom of a shoe could be someone’s head. The rest all makes sense. But the head is just uncanny.

So I took a picture of it, posted it on my IG story, then continued on my day. I went outside after a little while and turned my head and there I saw different kind of scarecrow. Well, it wasn’t actually a scarecrow at all–it didn’t scare birds away and no one had intentionally put it there to protect crops. It’s really just a piece of a tree trying it’s best to still exist between cement. Persevering just because there’s nothing else to do I guess. It will keep building up and out until whoever decides to clean up that parking lot (since writing this, they have begun construction).

So it stands there. Decorated perhaps by the wind. A strip of cloth is wrapped around the top like a scarf. It’s otherwise naked with bark. If it weren’t for that accessory it wouldn’t seem so much like a body. Fashion and function at once. Plus the cloth is indefinitely dirty. I mean, the scarecrow doesn’t even work. The birds don’t stay away. And it only seems like one to me because I saw one already that day through the photography of Palestinian lives. This one in Newark is hardly fooling itself. It has more arms than it’s supposed to, but it does exist in my mind at least. There’s not much vegetation right there to protect anyway. People might toss the birds some crackers or pancakes but that’s about it.

Later on that night I told my son about the whole thing and showed him the pictures. After a while, he started playing around with these new blocks I got him that snap into each other. He sat at the table building up and out and I was barely even watching, distracted with my own reading and writing. He came to me at the end to show me what he did (as always). I’m like ya know okay that’s cool. Very nice. I told him it looks like this or that. He was like, “no it’s a scarecrow.” And it was.

My books: 
– Jacob’s Hip: Poems
– FEM: New Millennium Beauty & Fashion
– Abandonment Issues: Alive in New Jersey
– Back Like I Never Left: Dating as a Single Mother

My bookstore: Ten Dollar Books

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