Art for How I Kill Soldiers.
Detail from a 1981 poster by Ismail Shammout | Palestine Poster Project Archives

How I Kill Soldiers

Detail from a 1981 poster by Ismail Shammout | Palestine Poster Project Archives
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Fady Joudah, the translator of the following poem, discusses it in an essay for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Read it here.

 

Colonial soldiers,
what have they been doing
to my poetry all these years
when I could have easily killed them
in my poems
as they’ve killed my family
outside poetry?

Poetry was my chance
to settle the score with killers,
but I let them age outdoors,
and I want them to know decay
in their lives, their faces to wrinkle,
their smiles to thin out,
and their weapons to hunch over.

So if you, dear readers, see a soldier
taking a stroll in my poem,
trust that I have left him to his fate
as I leave a criminal
to his many remaining years,
they will execute him.

And his ears will execute him
as he listens to me reciting my poem
to grieving families,
he won’t be able to slink out
of my book or the reading hall
as the seated audience stares at him.

You will not be consoled,
soldier, you will not,
not even as you exit
my poetry event
with slumped shoulders
and pockets full of dead bullets.

Even if your hand,
tremulous as it is
from so much murder,
fidgeted with the bullets,
you will not
produce more
than a dead sound.

 

                                        —Ramallah

 

Translated by Fady Joudah

 

Read more from our series by Palestinian poets.

Ahlam Bsharat is a memoirist, essayist, poet, and author of young adult fiction. Two of her young adult novels have been translated into English, Code Name: Butterfly and Trees for the Absentees from Neem Tree Press. She is from Jiftlik. 

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