Three poems from Naser Rabah, written in Maghaazi Camp, Gaza.
Our New Neighbor
If we were to plant bullets
What would the earth sprout, I wonder?
Or dead trees?
Even the cloud
The bullets pierced
When bullets speak
Who needs translation?
Bullets are our sole neighbor
Our pampered neighbor
Learns at night to play the guitar
To keep him company
My children sit behind me
And I hold my heart
And beat it like a drum
Our papers expired
And bullets are now our metallic currency
Release the bullets
Release them, and have a long night’s sleep
The bullets will howl
And at the end of the night return to you
A hungry and rapacious dog
Anxiously the night shields you
Or per chance sees you
There is no escape
The bullet is an owl, and you a mouse
The sniper does not see the eye of the gun
The sniper does not see the eye of the victim
The sniper does not see
Does not see
What dead country in your migration do you seek
Oh, Flock of Bullets?
Naked past the security gate
They heard the sound of the siren
Several times the guards inspected it
But a bullet builds its nest in memories
What Youssif Did Not Say
Wednesday is yours
And Thursday is yours,
And all the days of mourning are yours
Your eyes erode from tears
The years erode, your deep-rooted wisdom
The houses that stretch from river to sea erode
While waiting for me to return as the camel driver of caravans
Some time ago I gave you back the shirt
My weeping brothers still ask about me
They ask the Arab League and the itinerant Arabs
I am no longer Youssif, Father
I no longer drink cold coffee
When others are through with tribe talk
I await the Eid when you will buy me a new shirt
I no longer have brothers who cast stones into the creek of your tenderness
They shatter upon the knee of wrath my small dream
I am no longer a child, Father
I am the king of others
Master of the earth, guardian of wheat, the most handsome of prophets
I belong to others
Why should I return to you?
Torn was my shirt that governments held sacred
And carried around in the lean years
How my blood was a lie
Now you recognize the tribe’s wolf in every face
You recognize your eternal solitude in the Security Council,
When you turn over between your palms the new shirt
Studded with stars, perfumed with civilization
Console yourself with it… over me
With the fragrance of the land… over the land
With the keys… over the houses
I am no longer your child, Father
I am here to stay, so stand far over there
Blessed be my sons on the way to the wheat fields of their joy
They wake at dawn
Take the sun by the hand
To the last kernel in the field
Smile upon them, Father
Perhaps they remember an ancient forefather
Who planted orchards and vines in the land of Canaan
They may remember you, as they shed the cloak
As they sip wine
Telegrams that will not arrive.
When I give unto Caesar… what belongs to Caesar
And unto God…what belongs to God
What is left unto me…?
The shadow has a memory of sorrow
The walls convey it from house to house
So that when my shadow passes me by
I find myself crying unawares
The birds fear landing
When they cross my heart
Fear eating the crumbs of its sorrows
Turning into a heart like it,
When you sleep
Set a glass of water next to you
Why, oh Mother...?
So that your guardian angel may drink.
On the way to our delusion..
We meet the returning ones
Their God-given empty hands
And empty dreams.
Graced is mankind with a love for women
A trove of gold and silver
Why, oh God, did you not grace it with a love for poetry?
The cypress dreamt it was seduced by the cloud
And so it yearned for it
Reached, reached out its arms
But the passing cloud
Poured into the stream
Became the lover of the earth.
What since Imru’ al-Qais**
(A madman throws a rock down a well
And a hundred wise men fail to get it out)***
Why don’t they let it be then?
As the ambulance broke the sound barrier
And your wound convulsed blood and screams
That—putting aside the sight of blood—
You hate excessive speed.
* Holy Quran Surah III:14.
** Reference to the first line of a qaseeda by Imru’ al-Qais, Arabian poet of the 6th century
***A popular proverb
Translations by Rima S. Hassouneh
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