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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Najah Awadallah: Sad Song

Another beautiful piece from Najah Awadallah, whose short story appeared on Tuesday.

(Five days under Attack)

First day-
The violin bow is completely taut, conversing with its strings, while a gigantic bird delivers its first blows, and the residential high-rise trembles…with a shudder the violin’s bow snaps backwards, though quickly I retune it in order to control the fear in my music teacher’s eyes. I lead her to the safest spot in the house.

I smile to ease her tension. They’re working and demolishing upstairs while we play music.

Hysterical thoughts overwhelm me: What if we went outside and played a little over the rubble? Will this bird chirp and flap its wings away from us? She smiles a sad smile, we restart playing a piece from Tchaikovsky’s “Sad Song,” the bow falls in sorrow on the violin, while wrath pours from the sky.

I say goodbye to my teacher before the lesson is over. I fear for her safety. I say goodbye until the next lesson.

Second day-
While the violin is frightened in its box, the metal birds play their music from the score of Gaza’s remains.

In a book I find shelter from a death I see and smell, a book in which I don’t want to be the heroine or the narrator, or even a street corner, just a period or a comma, a question or an exclamation mark at most.

I ask myself: Is it fear for life or escape from it into paper where I alone hold the decision to end the sentence or turn the page?!

Third day-
I look out of my forlorn window at the street that pedestrian feet have abandoned. It is empty of the noisy vendors who had often annoyed me and I had often assailed them with a thousand curses. Now I implore a single sound so I can feel alive and so the city can feel the living are still ringing the bells of life within it.

I spot a herd of goats whose shepherd risked his life in order to feed them what remains of grass untouched by rain. Joy ululates in me like a child when I hear the little goats bleat. I delight in them as I hide behind the curtains.

Fourth day-
The sun wakes me from my sleep and I wash my face with its light. I feel pleasure in the notion that humans are unable to invent a devilish idea and conceal it from those they war with and hate. Exhausted, dark Gaza has had enough night.

Fifth day-
The molten bullets are still pouring over the city. They grant the foreigners the right to leave and exempt them from war. I call my teacher and her husband tells me she has already left. The violin has left the city. Music raises its arms up, in surrender, to the bullets.

I get my violin out of its coffin and play “Sad Song.” My lids are swollen. I am ashamed to tell my husband I’m crying over my teacher’s departure and my violin’s aloneness.

Only now has Gaza become orphaned.

Translated by Fady Joudah.

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