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

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