Poetry

Travel Tickets by Samih al-Qasim

(translated by A.Z. Foreman)

The day I’m killed,
my killer, rifling through my pockets,
will find travel tickets:
One to peace,
one to the fields and the rain,
and one to the conscience of humankind.
Dear killer of mine, I beg you:
Do not stay and waste them.
Take them, use them.
I beg you to travel.


The Earth Is Closing On Us by Mahmoud Darwish

(translated by Abdullah al-Udhari)

The Earth is closing on us
pushing us through the last passage
and we tear off our limbs to pass through.
The Earth is squeezing us.
I wish we were its wheat
so we could die and live again.
I wish the Earth was our mother
so she’d be kind to us.

I wish we were pictures on the rocks
for our dreams to carry as mirrors.
We saw the faces of those who will throw
our children out of the window of this last space.
Our star will hang up mirrors.
Where should we go after the last frontiers?
Where should the birds fly after the last sky?
Where should the plants sleep after the last breath of air?
We will write our names with scarlet steam.
We will cut off the hand of the song to be finished by our flesh.
We will die here, here in the last passage.
Here and here our blood will plant its olive tree.


There was a village called Sireen by Samih al-Qasim

(translated by Nazih Kassis)

“A Palestinian village whose feudal owner sold it for a kiss through a pane of glass…”

Nothing remained of Sireen after the auction apart from you, little prayer rug, because a mother slyly stole you and wrapped up her son who’d been sentenced to cold and weaning – and later to sorrow and longing.

It’s said there was a village, a very small village, on the border between sun’s gate and earth. It’s said that the village was twice sold – once for a measure of oil and once for a kiss through a pane of glass.

The buyers and sellers rejoiced at its sale, the year the submarine was sunk, in our twentieth century.

And in Sireen – the buyers went over the contract – were white-washed houses, lovers, and trees, folk poets, peasants, and children. (But there was no school – and neither tanks nor prisons.) The threshing floors, the colour of golden wine, and the graveyard were a vault meant for life and death, and the vault was sold!

People say that there was a village, but Sireen became an earthquake, imprisoned by an amulet as it turned into a banquet – in which the virgins’ infants were cooked in their mothers’ milk so soldiers and ministers might eat along with civilisation!

“And the axe is laid at the root of the tree…” And once again at the root of the tree, as one dear brother denies another and existence. Officer of the orbits… attend, O knight of death, but don’t give in – death is behind us and also before us. Knight of death, attend, there is no time to retreat – darkness crowds us and now has turned into a rancid butter, and the forest too is full, the serpents of blood have slithered away and the beaker of our ablution has been sold to a tourist from California! There is no time now for ablution. People say there was a village, but Sireen became an earthquake, imprisoned by an amulet as it turned into a banquet – in which the virgins’ infants were cooked in their mothers’ milk so soldiers and ministers might eat, along with civilisation!


 

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