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Two Poems


I caught a glimpse of you as I ran. I had no time to stop and kiss your hand. The world was chasing me down like I was a thief and it was impossible for me to stop. If I had stopped I’d have been killed. But I caught a glimpse of you: your hand a stem of narcissus in a glass of water, your mouth unbuttoned, and your hair a soaring bird of prey. I caught a glimpse of you but I had no matches with me to light a bonfire and dance around it. The world was failing me, abandoning me, so I didn’t even wave at you.

One day the world will settle down, the crazed cable channels will stop broadcasting, and those that hound me will disperse so I can return to that road, the one where I caught a glimpse of you. I’ll find you in that same chair: your hand a stem of narcissus, your smile a bird of prey, and your heart an apricot blossom. And there, with you, beneath the shade of your apricot, I’ll tear down the tent of my orphanhood and build my home.

                                     —from Kushtban




Night is a generous friend.  All things loosen their vines over my head. My beloveds are seated around me as if we were at a celebration. My beloveds who have passed. My beloveds who are here, and beloveds yet to come. And death is a watchdog chained at the gate. Only the Khamaseen wind beats angrily at the door. Khamaseen is a loathsome neighbor; I raise a wall between us, turn out the lights between us.

I am happy, singing like a rod of ephedra, crying out like a raptor.

Do not believe my words. Don’t reach out to the vines in the darkness. Night is a pact of horrors. Ten birds sleep in the tree, but one anxiously circles over the house. And as you know, one bird suffices to destroy an entire celebration, one match to burn down a civilization.

The meal was cold. I rinsed my mouth out afterwards with Khamaseen, and washed my hands with lichen.

If there was any use in weeping I would have wept before you all. But weeping requires more energy than we possess, so I will sing for you like tender Saba wind, I’ll sing in the vernacular of a young basil stem: night is a stone of amber. Night is a pact of marvels.

                                    —from Alanda (Ephedra)


Read more from our series by Palestinian poets.