Art for Poems From Palestine.
Detail from a poster by Burhan Karkoutly, "Jerusalem is Ours and Victory is Ours," 1977 | Palestine Poster Project Archives

Poems From Palestine

Lyric dispatches

Detail from a poster by Burhan Karkoutly, "Jerusalem is Ours and Victory is Ours," 1977 | Palestine Poster Project Archives
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In the coming weeks we will feature a series of poems from Palestine, curated by the poet and translator Fady Joudah. As the series continues, you’ll be able to scroll down to read all of the poems here, or click the links below to view them separately.

 

 


 

 

Dawn

By Rawan Hussin

 

Dawn broke on our heads.
Endings were cut down to size.
Our little ones’ feet
rapidly turned
toward the sky.
Time set itself aside
and places shut their eyes,
like a child with words
that gray behind her lids.
Ceilings tumbled
waterfalls of stone,
and under the rubble
the last perceived image
hangs: a final painting
sculpted on our faces.
Alone we grow old tonight,
weave hours and wear them,
gobble the terror that runs
down our kids’ mouths.
Who will devour
our rusted lips?

                                        —Gaza

 

Translated by Fady Joudah

 


 

How I Kill Soldiers

By Ahlam Bsharat

 

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

 


 

Specific Details

By Hosam Maarouf

 

Drowning in the time allotted for truce,
we manufacture spare hearts
in case we lose the hearts each of us has.
We’re uncertain of life’s worth
on the slipping edge,
yet it seems hope can’t be shelled all at once.
The minute details of war,
poison gas we can’t thwart
from settling our blood,
can’t even grab fear to toss it whole
outside our flesh. Dear God,
anxiety’s beat within us is louder
than a proximal bomb, but tell me
how will you convince the world
that the forest has no drum?
Specific details
fix our feet in place
as the house runs and runs
leaving its stones (its children)
behind: body parts,
fragments in memory.

 

                                        —Gaza

 

Translated by Fady Joudah

 


Hand of War

By Hosam Maarouf

 

We hold war’s hand,
not so that it walks among us,
but it is death,
a bit tardy, we cajole it.

We hold war’s hand,
convinced that this is the last time
it waves catastrophe to us,
since the road is a futile wall,

and the country is searching
for a photograph
of collective sorrow.

 

                                        —Gaza

 

Translated by Fady Joudah

 


 

Not Blind

By Taghrid Abdelal

 

No it isn’t. But love
took one of my eyes for itself, love
had vision before birth, did
discuss with me the accuracy
of what transpires in lenses.

And then it went blind—slowly
soaked us up from behind a veil,
and we couldn’t see it.

A deaf air said to me
that borders believe
space is smaller than the world
since children draw Earth
smaller than their houses
and draw eyes bigger than their faces.

Here love failed to find its eyes,
borrowed my lips
for better form.

Love, why don’t you stay as you are,
without official title,
subsistent on whoever desires you
for five minutes
before your suicide?

How cruel
you announce your sex
with paradise.

 

Translated by Fady Joudah

 


 

Belief

By Taghrid Abdelal

 

Not a main one,
but each time I erase it
I forget my hands over the objects
whose faith
compels their reappearance
on my knuckles.

You are another kind of belief.
It may dominate in the presence of the victim before me
or reach out to the executioner in my heart.
Each case the Monalisa
treats with a smile.

She didn’t fail in her search.
The test of her loss
matures in the belief of her existence.

 

Translated by Fady Joudah

 


 

Carob Tree

By Tariq Alarabi

 

I want to talk with you. It’s been a while
since anyone’s talked with me, no one around
says to me the things I say to you
when I’m sleepwalking.
For example, yesterday at 3AM the soldiers rained
tear gas bombs on us, ten workers
who crammed in a walk-in refrigerator for produce.
And the gas, like crude oil
that spilled into sea,
a forest fire that occupied all the air.

The carob tree was uprooted.
I still don’t know what you’re like
when you catch the flu.
Tomatoes are cheap this season
and the farmers are sad.
I’ve saved the best tomatoes for you.
As for the first thing I do when I wake up
I check the weather.
Weather enthusiasts in Palestine, like followers
of skincare products on Instagram,
are many.

And one more thing, since you’re not here:
do you like eggplant?

 

                                        —Nablus

 

Translated by Fady Joudah

 


 

Nakba

By Sheikha Hlewa

 

My mother is three years younger than Nakba.
But she doesn’t believe in great powers.
Twice a day she brings God down from his throne
then reconciles with him
through the mediation of the best
recorded Quranic recitations.
And she can’t bear meek women.
She never once mentioned Nakba.
Had Nakba been her neighbor,
my mom would’ve shamelessly chided her:
“I’m sick of the clothes on my back.”
And had Nakba been her older sister,
she would’ve courted her with a dish
of khubaizeh, but if her sister whined
too much, my mom would tell her: “Enough.
You’re boring holes in my brain. Maybe
we shouldn’t visit for a while?”
And had Nakba been an old friend,
my mom would tolerate her idiocy
until she died, then imprison her in a young picture
up on the wall of the departed,
a kind of cleansing ritual before she’d sit to watch
dubbed Turkish soap operas.
And had Nakba been an elderly Jewish woman
that my mom had to care for on Sabbath,
my mom would teasingly tell her
in cute Hebrew: “You hussy,
you still got a feel for it, don’t you?”
And had Nakba been younger than my mom,
she’d spit in her face and say:
“Rein in your kids, get’em inside,
you drifter.”

 

                                        —Haifa

 

Translated by Fady Joudah

 

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