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Monday, February 2, 2009

Atef Abu Saif: Look Closely

A Different Morning
This morning is different.
No jets in the sky. Even the sun was late in rising from its bed. And the sound of guns can no longer be heard at the outskirts. Ambulances that did not sleep all night settled down to rest. Even the sun woke up late from its bed in the east. Children, contrary to their custom, did not fill the streets with the noise of their games; nor did the hawking of the women carrying their baskets on the way to market. Also, in the alley in our quarter, the kiss will not appear that two small lips will draw on the cheek of the mother standing in the doorway saying her last good-bye to the son on his way to school.

A young man one day paused and wrote on a wall a short phrase in which he said to a young lady with who had exchanged vows of love with him that he loved her.
Did anyone see that?.
Look closely.
Among all these huge slogans with their bright colors and bright outlines, there’s a phrase beyond this gaggle, singing in another place and saying something different.
Of course no one will look beyond these slogans. No one will make even a small effort to reflect, even a little.
Maybe she was the only person to look amidst all these posters with their bright colors for a small phrase written in fading ink but shining in her heart. At that moment someone surprised her to ask if she wanted to join the faction whose slogans covered the wall at which she was staring.

An Undesirable Poster
Gaza is a huge wall for posters. Election posters are everywhere in the city. A huge box for the posters of those running for President. Huge pictures and slogans hang on the horizon in the street. News bulletins and television programs. Conversations in the coffee shops and differences of opinion. Circulars and fliers promising people sunshine and honey lie about in every alleyway.
Therefore could anything be more touching in all this crash of things than a young man posting the photograph of his mother who died ten years ago (the tenth anniversary of her death) in the middle of the layers of photographs and posters of the candidates. What could be more touching than to have been the only person to see this picture while passing in the street, which, no sooner did the young man turn his book than someone attached a photo of his candidate or maybe he was paid—a poster that covered everything including the picture of the mother of the young man who is sad over her departure on the tenth anniversary of her passing?

The Shadow of the Butterfly
He was walking the unpaved road carrying his satchel on his shoulders. The satchel is like a butterfly that had just settled on a branch. He never forgot to smile. His shadow was moving along the wall to his right, as the sun was setting in the belly of the sea, only a few meters away.
Today he won’t walk the unpaved road, and the butterfly (I mean the satchel) will not settle on the branches (I mean his shoulders), even though the sun today, like every day, still settles into the belly of the sea. Only his shadow will remain on the wall, like an old portrait that stays in place.

The Road
There is something in the road
I asked, “Are you sure it leads to the sea?”
He answered, “Not just sure. I know it as well as the palm of my hand, and I remember it as well as my father’s name.”
He shook his head, and I walked behind him. But there’s something in the road!
A forest on the edges whose heart is darkness
A cloud over our heads whose face is gloomy,
Women wearing black passing every once in a while
Destructive weeds despite the exuberance of spring
A child with bloody feet standing like a lost piece of marble
A disquiet growing like sea moss in the rock of my heart
And something that is whispering to me that he doesn’t know the road, and we are lost

Translated by Ibrahim Muhawi.

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