‘Write My Name’ by Zeina Azzam: Poem Appreciation

Rizky Setiawan
3 min readDec 2, 2023

“Some parents in Gaza have resorted to writing their children’s names on their legs to help identify them should either they or the children be killed.” -CNN, 10/22/2023

Write my name on my leg, Mama

Use the black permanent marker with the ink that doesn’t bleed

if it gets wet, the one that doesn’t melt

if it’s exposed to heat

Write my name on my leg, Mama

Make the lines thick and clear

Add your special flourishes

so I can take comfort in seeing

my mama’s handwriting when I go to sleep

Write my name on my leg, Mama

and on the legs of my sisters and brothers

This way we will belong together

This way we will be known

as your children

Write my name on my leg, Mama

and please write your name

and Baba’s name on your legs, too

so we will be remembered

as a family

Write my name on my leg, Mama

Don’t add any numbers

like when I was born or the address of our home

I don’t want the world to list me as a number

I have a name and I am not a number

Write my name on my leg, Mama

When the bomb hits our house

When the walls crush our skulls and bones

our legs will tell our story, how

there was nowhere for us to run

-Zeina Azzam

Appreciating the Poem:

The poem “Write My Name” resonates deeply with its poignant portrayal of the harsh realities faced by families in conflict zones, particularly in Gaza. The act of inscribing names on legs, as a means of identification in the face of potential tragedy, unveils the desperation and resilience intertwined in such circumstances. The choice of words and vivid imagery underscores the urgency and emotional weight carried by the individuals depicted in the verses.

Response:

In response to the poem, one can’t help but be moved by the raw emotion and humanity it conveys. The symbolism of using a black permanent marker, resistant to both water and heat, adds layers of meaning to the act of writing names. It speaks to the innate human desire for connection, identity, and a sense of belonging, even when faced with the unimaginable. The plea to avoid being reduced to mere numbers and to be remembered as individuals underscores the profound impact of conflict on personal identity.

Furthermore, the poem prompts contemplation on the broader humanitarian aspect of conflicts. Beyond the immediate act of writing names, it draws attention to the broader global responsibility to recognize and address the human toll of such situations. The vivid imagery of the impending danger and the walls closing in forces us to confront the stark reality faced by those caught in the crossfire. As a response, there’s a call to action to advocate for human rights, dignity, and a world where such desperate measures are rendered unnecessary.

Personal View:

As far as I am concerned, from a humanitarian perspective, this poem reinforces the importance of recognizing the shared humanity in times of crisis. It urges individuals and societies to approach conflicts with empathy and compassion, understanding the profound impact on families and communities. As someone embracing a humanitarian outlook, it becomes a poignant reminder of the need for collective efforts to prevent and address the root causes of conflict, striving towards a world where families don’t have to resort to such desperate measures to assert their existence and identity. Once more, it prompts reflection on our shared responsibility to uphold human dignity and work towards a world where such desperate measures are unnecessary.

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Rizky Setiawan
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English Literature Student. I write, hence I alive. Mostly, updating personal life on Twitter: @rizay16