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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Khaled Juma: Emptiness in the Map... Emptiness on the Map

Two excellent translations to round off our successful Refuge in Words/New Writing from Gaza project -- which recently featured on the Body on the Line and on Leonard Schwartz' Cross-Cultural Poetics radio show, and in a follow up article in Counterpunch on Soumaya Sousi's prose poem The City. Isis Nusair and Rewa Zeinati co-translated these pieces.

Here's the first: a vivid, exact and exacting poem about war, media and meaning.

Emptiness in the Map… Emptiness on the Map
Khaled Juma

The options on the street are exhausted* The boy is no longer Jesus* Over the scene’s progression he moves towards final distraction * He listens to what he is not used to in daily life* The flute is irritating as it wounds the fear in the scene from the audience*And perhaps even ten extra bullets have become meaningless* Army, why so serious with your jokes?* The soldier laughed: Your speech for any color but white*

My son: You have to determine the color of the army in order to converse with a tunnel that leads to meaningfulness* Meaning has recently become devoid of its skill* The writer of the article is only interested in the font size of the newspaper* And the army is concerned with a lot more than the font size and the manner in which the demonstrators collapse* The scene quickly changes from a father whose daughter side tracked and got mixed up with tainted boys, despite their combat, to a daughter searching for a father whose features have fallen for no reason upon the asphalt* The satellite T.V. announces an ad for a new air conditioner* The boy leaves to go purchase it* He worries about his mother’s fever* But he has fallen over on his way to the air conditioner* Luckily he has not died completely*

The burden was at odds with the boy who is able to play with his soul that has the capacity to detach from him and return as a kitten* He did not use high philosophy to clarify his situation like the radio station does* The newscaster answered* The boy did what he could and so did the commentator*

The boy forgets his garden as soon as he falls asleep from the flow of medicinal liquid running through veins not designed for this* The nurses guard his sleep from their memory of passersby* Never have they encountered someone with such beauty when asleep* They sing and leave at the end of their shift* And they don’t recall him until their next shift* In his sleep a long and narrow desert* And a bird for the worry that is clueless about who squeezed both of these into sleep woven with such incredible accuracy* The desert becomes a map* The teacher points to the only color and wags his moustache and stick* There is emptiness between one desert and another* The teacher weaves his sentence out of an ancient language* This is the Nile that blushes each time it passes its own funeral* And the Nile as you know is the longest of rivers* If we exclude the rivers of heaven in their long passing under the genius of God’s genius* But the desert snores in her sleep* And her sleep is the river if you didn’t know* The boy is on a paper that’s on a line that twirls* There is emptiness in the map* There is a celebration that falls upon this emptiness and the tree is not aware of what’s under her* The pole at the end of the map is a white forest*As if the pole is making love to the desert!!*

A sudden passing of a cloud over a tent that represents a wall* The boy is a non-identical copy of those who remain in old tents*The conversation is long and useless* Experience has taught him that experience teaches no one but itself* He sifts through his friends only to find them fall through the widest of openings* He alters his riddle each year and still they all fall through* Boredom speaks from within him and he doesn’t have the ability to change his body over this whiteness that befits language* Language is tricky* He curses it as he returns to his neat yearning* The country is mine whether I utter poetry or dream it* He laughed at this thought and a nurse, unlike the rest who’ve completed their shift, smiled at him*

Three girls who sell roses lay upon his thought that breathes out of his vein* The soul remains like a little kitten* Doctors pass by* Nurses* Visitors* Cleaners* Party representatives* Roses* Female students* Singers* Journalists* Blood donors* Military officials* Leaders* And many other professions that bite him out of his bed and bow in front of him momentarily before passing along* The desert is demonstrated on the map* In the map a gap* On the map a gap and the Nile is not here, teacher* Give me my papers so I can show them to my parents* You are a handful of a student for a sad teacher* I didn’t mean it but I scribbled on the map and that’s why the Nile has disappeared* The teacher resigns, divorces his ambition and commits suicide* Light comes from the mirage at the end of the hallway* A light that does not illuminate* A boy touches the flute in a room made of wood* The plants in the room open the window with sharp vision* Producing a heart and breaking the symbol that’s in the heart* The bed opens its eye and dribbles one joint after another* The boy addresses the remaining letters and makes his bed and greets it* He covers it as if sleeping and goes outside, leaning on his teeth and barefoot, and the hallway is long and cold* Two planes flirt with the moon that gnaws at the sea* The sea curses and the moon is happy with the attention* A boy falls out of the plane, he has two braids and in his hand an architectural map that matches more than soul and less than a city* He throws his age in the sea and tries to trap the boy with an open trick* The evening and the moon leave the map* A number of notebooks on the seashore and a face imprinted on cellophane peeks from under the armpit of the only bridge in the city* The city has a relationship with herself, carving a book that is not yet bored of writing* The waves chews on delicious sand* A lonely cane passes by the wave* The sky becomes a lot of numbers that fall into the midst* The boy retreats and the waves retreat to a brief peace tour* The school remains where it is* Why is the school never boring at night?* The horses pass by exhausted in the face of the sleeping traps* In the body of a bird an explosion like Armageddon* Words escape the mouth of the storyteller and the map protests* Emptiness in the map* Emptiness on the map* A map on emptiness* A map in emptiness* The women walk by the neighborhood of the stone orphanage* They don’t understand the map* A group of soldiers pack up their things from the eye of the setting sun* And the boy fools around with his soul that resembles a small cat* She leaves him* Comes back to him* Leaves him* Comes back to him* Leaves him*Comes back to him* The darkness opens up to a devilish star that combs its rays in an imaginary mirror* Every mirror is an illusion in the night* The night is a shift and so is the day* The cat plays with luck* and the flute is in a wooden room, growing up to become a tree of music* A demonstration in the street has no harmony* A sad nation rises from behind the colorful flags and disappears into a product that has no expiration date nor the name of the country of production* The audience slows down* It lowers itself in a direction that spans the street* The noise is loud* A few seconds later only a sound* And no one is in the scene* And no scene for anyone* The trees draw the attention of the bombs that come from various plans* The sleeping people feign death just to get a line in the newspaper* And money suddenly arrives to become a factor in the equation* The city divides into a sea and a fleet of bullets at the peak of the evening* Borders are formed like water flowing over stone* The boy is no longer part of the scene* The broadcaster meets himself* The nurses look forward to the end of the shift* Never have they come across a boy with such beauty when asleep* And his slumber remains on the pillow just the way he left it* And still an emptiness in the map* And still an emptiness on the map*

Translated By Rewa Zeinati and Isis Nusair

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