The HyperTexts

Palestinian Poetry, Art and Photography

This page is dedicated to Palestinian children and their mothers; it was compiled by Michael R. Burch, an editor, translator and publisher of Holocaust and Nakba poetry.

Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

Christians may want to consider the ethical questions What does the Bible say? What would Jesus do? One of the first major revelations in the New Testament after Pentecost was Saint Peter's vision in which he gained the understanding that God does not discriminate, and that no person of any race is to be considered "unclean," lesser or inferior. Jews and Gentiles were the same in the eyes of God, thus Christians should see Jews and Palestinians as equals in the brotherhood of man. The early Christian church accepted Peter's revelation, and from that day forward Palestinians were as welcome as anyone else in a religion that was supposed to be free of racism.

by Olfa Drid

barren land,
fruitless trees,
wingless birds,
eclipsed sun,
miniscule corpses,
entombed hopes,
decapitated present,
castrated future
death's specter
putrid territories
global silence…

"Stripped of our raiment, are we not all the same flesh, the same blood?" As I sat down to work on this page, these words occurred to me, but when I tried to locate their source online, I couldn't, so it seems they may have originated from within me. Still, they seem like good words to begin a dialogue with. If beauty is only skin deep, our genetic differences may be equally shallow. Perhaps our differences begin and end with skin tone and culture. The beautiful Palestinian girl above would be no less beautiful, and no less human, if she was wearing a baseball cap or Cherokee headdress. And she certainly doesn't strike me as being a "terrorist," or likely to grow up to be one. To me she is incredibly lovely and full of promise, and I am reminded of these lines by the Palestinian poet Fadwa Tuqan about the promise of spring and the resiliency of life:

When the Tree rises up, the branches
shall flourish green and fresh in the sun
the laughter of the Tree shall leaf
beneath the sun
and birds shall return.
Undoubtedly, the birds shall return.
The birds shall return.

IMG_6011.jpg picture by eshaameena

And so, as the world seems to teeter on the brink of World War III, I find myself asking, "Why?" All the Palestinians I have met personally are people I am very glad to know. (For instance, the determined-looking young man below, wearing a Jerusalem t-shirt and carrying an American flag. I met him at a Freedom Walk in Nashville, Tennessee.) Why then is there so much fear and distrust?

Even if hatred is not the main problem, the consequences of mutual fear and distrust have been disastrous for the world:

Our distance is frightening:
a distance like the gap between thunderhead and earth
interrupted by bizarre and terrible lightning.

I believe my small poem above may catch something of how many Palestinians must feel about Americans (although most Americans seem to believe the lightning originated in the opposite direction). Each side seems to feel threatened, if not doomed, by the other. But these lines by Khaled Nusseibeh strike me as being very important:

The oppressed can but pursue suitable tracks
Learning to heed the lessons of awesome war
But will the mighty listen to reason’s voice
That justice will accomplish the peace of Rome?
Or will conscience’s dictates be inexorably ignored
As war’s clouds hover over culture’s great cradle?
And yet we do not harbor the odium of hatred
But pray that peace can still be humanity’s finest hour

After much study and reflection, I have come to the conclusion that Western interference in the Middle East, and particularly in Palestine, has created much of the fear and distrust. I'm not sure if most of the people on either side actually "hate" each other. I hope not. I certainly find it impossible to "hate" the people whose pictures appear on this page. I met the girls below at the same Freedom Walk.

The young man below just might be the cutest walker of them all! I hope I've made my point. Racial hatred is absurd. If we hate people because they look or dress different than we do, the problem lies with us, not them. But I don't believe most Americans "hate" Palestinians. Americans have increasingly been putting racism in the prehistoric past, where it belongs. So what is the problem, exactly?

I find the story and words of Mahmoud Darwish, perhaps the most acclaimed of the Palestinians poets whose words appear on this page, illuminating. Mahmoud Darwish was born in the Galilean village of Barweh, which was razed to the ground by Israelis during the Nakba (Arabic for "Catastrophe") in 1948, when Darwish was seven. Like hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians, Darwish became an exile, along with his family, because his ancestral village had been destroyed. The title of his first book, Wingless Sparrows, speaks volumes. And yet Darwish rejected anti-Semitism, saying:

The accusation is that I hate Jews.
It's not comfortable that they show me as a devil
and an enemy of Israel.
I am not a lover of Israel, of course.
I have no reason to be.
But I don't hate Jews.

As a young man, Darwish faced house arrest and imprisonment because of his political activism. He left Palestine in 1971, to study briefly at the University of Moscow, after which he worked for a newspaper in Cairo, then in Beirut as an editor of Palestinian Issues. When he joined the PLO in 1973, he was banned from reentering Palestine. Still, he recognized the humanity of the Jews; some were his oppressors, other his lovers:

I will continue to humanise even the enemy  . . . 
The first teacher who taught me Hebrew was a Jew.
The first love affair in my life was with a Jewish girl.
The first judge who sent me to prison was a Jewish woman.
So from the beginning, I didn't see Jews as devils or angels
but as human beings.

Several of his poems were written for Jewish lovers. He said: "These poems take the side of love, not war."

The famous Pax Romana was very precarious, often bloody, and was not the result of justice, but of the tyranny of military power. The only lasting peace is a just peace, because injustice invariably leads to violence on both sides. So when will the mighty listen to reason's voice, and help establish a just peace? Hopefully beginning now, as we explore the possibility that the Western world has misjudged and terribly mistreated the Palestinian people. If so, then perhaps we can begin to see the inviting form of a just peace. A just peace necessarily begins with equal human rights, fair laws and fair courts. But the Palestinians have been denied equal right, fair laws and fair courts for more than sixty years, ever since the Nakba of 1948. And yet Palestinians still dream of the land and themselves virtually as one, as in this poem by Fadwa Tuqan:

The Deluge and the Tree

When the hurricane swirled and spread its deluge
of dark evil
onto the good green land
'they' gloated. The western skies
reverberated with joyous accounts:
"The Tree has fallen!
The great trunk is smashed! The hurricane leaves no life in the Tree!"

Had the Tree really fallen?
Never! Not with our red streams flowing forever,
not while the wine of our thorn limbs
fed the thirsty roots,
Arab roots alive
tunneling deep, deep, into the land!

When the Tree rises up, the branches
shall flourish green and fresh in the sun
the laughter of the Tree shall leaf
beneath the sun
and birds shall return
Undoubtedly, the birds shall return.
The birds shall return.

When I think of the situation of the Palestinians, I think of the movies "District 9" and "Avatar." The governments of Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom have colluded to deny the Palestinians their self-evident rights to self-determination and the protection of fair, nonracist laws and courts. As an editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry, I understand how vital it is for human beings especially women, children and the elderlyto be protected by fair laws and fair courts. The Shoah ("Catastrophe") of the Jewish people could not have occurred if they had been protected by fair laws and courts. The Nakba and the Shoah are two faces of the same coin: racial injustice. The only nonviolent cures for racial injustice are equal rights, fair laws and fair courts. Please keep this in mind as we move forward together. This is one of the simple lessons of history, but Americans have learned it at home, while ignoring it abroad. We cannot hope for a just peace until we practice abroad what we preach at home: equal rights, fair laws, and fair courts. Why has the United States given Israel hundreds of billions of dollars in financial aid and advanced weapons, when Israel refuses to do what Americans did when they established equal rights, fair laws and fair courts for everyone?

If you are unfamiliar with the real history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, or have been told that Israel is "only defending itself," please read Albert Einstein's 1948 letter to the New York Times, then click your browser's "back" button to return to this page. If you want to understand how the theft of Palestinian land relates to Israel's new offensive against Gaza, known as Operation "Pillar of Defense" or "Pillar of Clouds," please click here Amud Annan "Pillar of Fire." If you want to hear the opinion of the former U.S. president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who negotiated peace talks between Israel and Palestinians, please click here Jimmy Carter: "Israeli policy is to confiscate Palestinian territory." Please click here to read about Israel’s Transfer Committee and its goal of ethnic cleansing. You may also want to read and consider Israeli Prime Ministers who were Terrorists and Does Israel Really Want Peace?

It is important for Americans to see the Palestinians as human beings with self-evident equal rights. Palestinian poets can help us do that. Here is Fadwa Tuqan again:

Labor Pains

The wind blows the pollen in the night
through ruins of fields and homes.
Earth shivers with love,
with the pain of giving birth,
but the conqueror wants us to believe
stories of submission and surrender.

O Arab Aurora!
Tell the usurper of our land
that childbirth is a force unknown to him,
the pain of a mother’s body,
that the scarred land
inaugurates life
at the moment of dawn
when the rose of blood
blooms on the wound.

Westerners, and Americans in particular, seem to have become fixated on terrorism, as if terrorism is the disease itself, rather than a terrifying symptom of the real disease: rampant racism and injustice being practiced against an oppressed, largely defenseless people. Mahmoud Darwish is a voice of love, compassion and reason, asking us to understand young men who have been driven to martyrdom by despair:

We should not justify suicide bombers.
We are against the suicide bombings,
but we must understand what drives these young people to such actions.
They want to liberate themselves from such a dark life.
It is not ideological, it is despair . . .
We have to understand—not justify—what gives rise to this tragedy.
It's not because they're looking for beautiful virgins in heaven, as Orientalists portray it.
Palestinian people are in love with life.
If we give them hope—a political solution—they'll stop killing themselves.

In March 2000, Israeli education minister Yossi Sarid proposed that two of Darwish's poems be taught in Israeli high schools. Prime Minister Ehud Barak rejected the proposal on the grounds that Israel was "not ready." This sounds suspiciously like white supremacists saying their children are "not ready" for the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., or Langston Hughes. No doubt the incident had more to do with Israeli politics and racism than poetry. I believe it is time for Americans and the rest of the Western World to accept a simple but hard truth: the Palestinians have been the victims of rampant hypocrisy and injustice. Why do Americans preach equal rights and justice to all the world, while refusing to stand for equal rights and justice for the Palestinians?

The purpose of this page is to allow the Palestinian people, particularly poets, artists and photographers, to tell their stories in their own words, art and photographs. Are the beautiful Palestinian children above "terrorists"? Is the lovely woman below? Of course not. Are the Palestinians who produce wonderfully moving poems and exquisite art so different from the rest of the human race, that they have to be treated as a "special case"? No, self-evidently not. After all, human DNA is virtually identical. As a leading Internet publisher of Holocaust poetry, I consider it my duty to tell the other side of the story: the story of the Nakba, but more importantly, the story of a wonderfully diverse and exceptional people, the Palestinians, who have been treated shamefully, hypocritically and cruelly by the governments of Israel and the United States. Let us see the truth for what it is, abandon hypocrisy, and act responsibly, so that all earth's children are born with equal rights and the protection of fair laws and fair courts. My son is protected by fair laws and fair courts. Most Palestinian children are not. That is the real difference: not the children, but how they are governed. Does any government on earth, including the government of the United States, have the right to deny Palestinian children their human rights and dignity? — Michael R. Burch, editor, The HyperTexts

Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch, translated by Iqbal Tamimi

مرثية لطفل فلسطيني

عشت قدر استطاعتي، وبعدها متّ

إحذر أين تخطّـو: فالقبر واسع

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

Look at me

by Nahida Izzat

Look at me
I would love to write poetry about love,
Paint rainbows and butterflies,
Smell the scent of pink rose buds,
And dance;
Dance with the melody of jubilant bluebirds

I would love to close my eyes and see children smiling
No guns pointing at their heads
Tell them stories of lily-like fairies in far-away lands
Not of bullets shrieking . . . of missiles exploding
How can I?

There is a dagger in my heart
I am hurting
I bleed,
I cringe
I cry

I am being slaughtered
Under your watchful eyes
I am cold . . . cold . . . cold
I cringe
I cry

Humanity, where are you?
Why do you turn your face away?
Why do you keep looking the other way?
I am here
In Gaza's alleyways
Humanity, where are you?
Look at me
See me

I am here
In Gaza's alleyways
I cringe
I cry

Enough turning the other way !
Turning a deaf ear
Turning a blind eye
While I,
and oh ! my poor children

Walid Khazindar was born in 1950 in Gaza City. He obtained a law degree in Beirut in 1978. He is considered one of the best Palestinian poets; his poetry is characterized by metaphoric originality and a novel thematic approach unprecedented in Arabic poetry. He was awarded the first Palestine Prize for Poetry in 1997. He lives in Tunis.

Distant light

Harsh and cold
autumn holds to it our naked trees:
If only you would free, at least, the sparrows
from the tips of your fingers
and release a smile, a small smile
from the imprisoned cry I see.
Sing! Can we sing
as if we were light, hand in hand
sheltered in shade, under a strong sun?
Will you remain, this way
stoking the fire, more beautiful than necessary, and quiet?
Darkness intensifies
and the distant light is our only consolation —
that one, which from the beginning
has, little by little, been flickering
and is now about to go out.
Come to me. Closer and closer.
I don't want to know my hand from yours.
And let's beware of sleep, lest the snow smother us.

Translated by Khaled Mattawa from the author's collections Ghuruf Ta'isha (Dar al-Fikr, Beirut, 1992) and Satwat al-Masa (Dar Bissan, Beirut, 1996). Reprinted from Banipal No 6. Translation copyright Banipal and translator. All rights reserved.

And here is a poem by Dr. Hanan Ashrawi that gives us a child's perspective on the Israeli occupation of Palestine:

Hadeel's Song

Some words are hard to pronounce—
He-li-cop-ter is most vexing
                    (A-pa-che or Co-bra is impossible)
But how it can stand still in the sky
I cannot understand—
          What holds it up
                    What bears its weight
(Not clouds, I know)
It sends a flashing light—so smooth—
          It makes a deafening sound
                    The house shakes
                             (There are holes in the wall by my bed)
And I have a hard time sleeping
(I felt ashamed when I wet my bed, but no one scolded me).

Plane—a word much easier to say—
          It flies, tayyara,
My mother told me
A word must have a meaning
A name must have a meaning
Like mine,
        (Hadeel, the cooing of the dove)
Tanks, though, make a different sound
          They shudder when they shoot
Dabbabeh is a heavy word
          As heavy as its meaning.

Hadeel—the dove—she coos
          Tayyara—she flies
                    Dabbabeh—she crawls
My Mother—she cries
          And cries and cries
My Brother—Rami—he lies
                    And lies and lies, his eyes
Hit by a bullet in the head
          (bullet is a female lead—rasasa—she kills,
                    my pencil is a male lead—rasas—he writes)
What’s the difference between a shell and a bullet?
(What’s five-hundred-milli-meter-
        Or eight-hundred-milli-meter-shell?)
Numbers are more vexing than words—
          I count to ten, then ten-and-one, ten-and-two
                    But what happens after ten-and-ten,
How should I know?
Rami, my brother, was one
          Of hundreds killed—
They say thousands are hurt,
But which is more
          A hundred or a thousand (miyyeh or alf)
                    I cannot tell—
                             So big—so large—so huge—
Too many, too much.

Palestine—Falasteen—I’m used to,
          It’s not so hard to say,
It means we’re here—to stay—
          Even though the place is hard
                    On kids and mothers too
For soldiers shoot
          And airplanes shell
                    And tanks boom
                             And tear gas makes you cry
(Though I don’t think it’s tear gas that makes my mother cry)
I’d better go and hug her
          Sit in her lap a while
                    Touch her face (my fingers wet)
                             Look in her eyes
Until I see myself again
          A girl within her mother’s sight.

If words have meaning, Mama,
          What is Is-ra-el?
What does a word mean
        if it is mixed
                  with another—
If all soldiers, tanks, planes and guns are
                    What are they doing here
In a place I know
          In a word I know—(Palestine)
                    In a life that I no longer know?

Excerpts from Under Siege

by Mahmoud Darwish
translated by Marjolijn De Jager

Here on the slopes of hills, facing the dusk and the cannon of time
Close to the gardens of broken shadows,
We do what prisoners do,
And what the jobless do:
We cultivate hope.

A country preparing for dawn. We grow less intelligent
For we closely watch the hour of victory:
No night in our night lit up by the shelling
Our enemies are watchful and light the light for us
In the darkness of cellars.

Here there is no "I".
Here Adam remembers the dust of his clay.

You who stand in the doorway, come in,
Drink Arabic coffee with us
And you will sense that you are men like us
You who stand in the doorways of houses
Come out of our morningtimes,
We shall feel reassured to be
Men like you!

When the planes disappear, the white, white doves
Fly off and wash the cheeks of heaven
With unbound wings taking radiance back again, taking possession
Of the ether and of play. Higher, higher still, the white, white doves
Fly off. Ah, if only the sky
Were real [a man passing between two bombs said to me].

Cypresses behind the soldiers, minarets protecting
The sky from collapse. Behind the hedge of steel
Soldiers piss—under the watchful eye of a tank—
And the autumnal day ends its golden wandering in
A street as wide as a church after Sunday mass . . .

[To a killer] If you had contemplated the victim’s face
And thought it through, you would have remembered your mother in the
Gas chamber, you would have been freed from the reason for the rifle
And you would have changed your mind: this is not the way
to find one’s identity again.

The siege is a waiting period
Waiting on the tilted ladder in the middle of the storm.

Alone, we are alone as far down as the sediment
Were it not for the visits of the rainbows.

We have brothers behind this expanse.
Excellent brothers. They love us. They watch us and weep.
Then, in secret, they tell each other:
"Ah! if this siege had been declared . . . " They do not finish their sentence:
"Don’t abandon us, don’t leave us."

Our losses: between two and eight martyrs each day.
And ten wounded.
And twenty homes.
And fifty olive trees . . .
Added to this the structural flaw that
Will arrive at the poem, the play, and the unfinished canvas.

Oh watchmen! Are you not weary
Of lying in wait for the light in our salt
And of the incandescence of the rose in our wound
Are you not weary, oh watchmen?

A little of this absolute and blue infinity
Would be enough
To lighten the burden of these times
And to cleanse the mire of this place.

In the state of siege, time becomes space
Transfixed in its eternity
In the state of siege, space becomes time
That has missed its yesterday and its tomorrow.

The martyr encircles me every time I live a new day
And questions me: Where were you? Take every word
You have given me back to the dictionaries
And relieve the sleepers from the echo’s buzz.

The martyr enlightens me: beyond the expanse
I did not look
For the virgins of immortality for I love life
On earth, amid fig trees and pines,
But I cannot reach it, and then, too, I took aim at it
With my last possession: the blood in the body of azure.

The siege will last in order to convince us we must choose an enslavement that does no harm, in fullest liberty!

Resisting means assuring oneself of the heart’s health,
The health of the testicles and of your tenacious disease:
The disease of hope.

Greetings to the one who shares with me an attention to
The drunkenness of light, the light of the butterfly, in the
Blackness of this tunnel!

Greetings to the one who shares my glass with me
In the denseness of a night outflanking the two spaces:
Greetings to my apparition.

My friends are always preparing a farewell feast for me,
A soothing grave in the shade of oak trees
A marble epitaph of time
And always I anticipate them at the funeral:
Who then has died . . . who?

Ahmad Al-Za’tar

by Mahmoud Darwish
translated by Tania Nasir

For two hands, of stone and of thyme
I dedicate this song. For Ahmad, forgotten between two butterflies
The clouds are gone and have left me homeless, and
The mountains have flung their mantles and concealed me
From the oozing old wound to the contours of the land I descend, and
The year marked the separation of the sea from the cities of ash, and
I was alone
Again alone
O alone? And Ahmad
Between two bullets was the exile of the sea
A camp grows and gives birth to fighters and to thyme
And an arm becomes strong in forgetfulness
Memory comes from trains that have left and
Platforms that are empty of welcome and of jasmine
In cars, in the landscape of the sea, in the intimate nights of prison cells
In quick liaisons and in the search for truth was
The discovery of self
In every thing, Ahmad found his opposite
For twenty years he was asking
For twenty years he was wandering
For twenty years, and for moments only, his mother gave him birth
In a vessel of banana leaves
And departed
He seeks an identity and is struck by the volcano
The clouds are gone and have left me homeless, and
The mountains have flung their mantles and concealed me
I am Ahmad the Arab, he said
I am the bullets, the oranges and the memory

Dead Life
by Olfa Drid

Hey you, hurrying off to the doctor in case of flu or toothache,
what if you suffered like the people of Gaza from a chronic heartache?

Hey you, your kids have a lot of toys to play with and change their moods,
but kids like them in Gaza are being robbed of their innocent moments of childhood!

Hey you, your kids are lucky enjoying food, shelter and comfy beds,
but parents in Gaza are traumatized by their kids' exploded stomachs and heads!

Hey you, you're showing off your new brand-name clothes to your peers?
For their lifelong 'red uniforms', kids of Gaza are drenched in tears!

Hey you, you're complaining every now and then about a lack of fun?
What if your ears were deafened by the noise of rockets and guns!

Hey you, you shout and swear if your kids fall or bleed somewhere?
People of Gaza have been bleeding in silence for decades, as if No one does care!

Hey you, you feel humiliated if you don't celebrate your birthday every year with friends, candles and a cake?
People of Gaza have only wakes and are burning candles daily for their land's sake!

Hey you, you listen to music to calm down and release your stress?
People of Gaza have no other melody but the melancholic lyric of death!

Hey you, you're enraged because your lover didn't call you on the phone?
People of Gaza can only express their displeasure with a stone!

Hey you, you're reluctant to see horrible pictures of atrocities and scattered body parts?
Will you survive a minute if your eyes witness your family members literally falling apart?

Hey you, you're enjoying beer, marijuana and secret dating on Twitter and Facebook?
Did you also swallow all the anesthetizing pills and poisoned hooks?

Hey you, you're hypnotized by the wide range of drama, thriller, soccer and porn TV channels?
Why don't you become a pioneer in launching soul-uplifting, intelligence-boosting and peace-promoting panels?

Hey you, do you feel frustrated when you miss a party or a famous star's show?
What if you lived a life where the sun never rises to melt the years of snow?

Hey you over there, proud of having two feet not four,
What makes you feel superior,
if your brain is (b)locked,
your tongue is tied and
your heart is congealed to the core?

Stones that sprouted legs

by Iqbal Tamimi

Written for the memory of my Iraqi colleague
Atwar Bahjat who was killed while reporting from Iraq.

The bed of defeat has always been feminine.
Ever since the sky was within reach
a woman fluffing a wombless vanilla pillow
has given birth to scandals.

The thorns took advantage,
climbing the shoulders of the bare peach,
stealing the bride
whose perfume never swirled in the wind.
The apple went mad,
glued in his grief
to the fingers of his land.

Stripping off his desire
He shouted, cried,
"I’ve perfected banging water drums
because my share of plight is exactly like yours,
although my teardrops
could quench hatred’s fire."

We all perfected the game
attacking the features of things.
We dallied with the nails of our jailer
who bought the East
sometimes with prayers,
at other times
with a convoy of female slaves.

The knight of the mountains
has been collecting our wounds
to sprinkle them on a heap of dew.

He waited a long time
until the stones sprouted legs,
chasing the mud groom
who tested the virginity of the heavens,
bearing his imported season
on the shoulders of winter.

I screamed into his shirt,
"Rescue me please, from this cold body.
My circle has been defeated by armies of frost,
chased by eagles of dust.
Toss your body
against the ink lorry,
Drown your sorrow in a cup of coffee or . . .
die standing up like a wall:
defend the hymen of the thyme;
defend a wagon
ready to load the victims of terror.
Fight for
honey-flavoured Poems,
document your defeat . . . if you choose
on a sobbing poem.
For a lilac became a naked martyr
in becoming a trembling pavement for a camera crew."

Palestinian poet Iqbal Tamimi (above)

Murdered by my own ink

by Iqbal Tamimi

The ports of my papers,
are fields of uncertainties.
I plant my anchor
to secure my old face
while it ages toward oblivion.
My dream is stretching
between a place
under the umbrella of the wind,
an illusion under the rain.
The distance
is . . . too far
to arrest the dead man,
who crucified me
in a hideous, unthinkable moment.
I am just a number within an army
of unlucky ones,
killed by the poison of their own ink,
and the stupidity of their own fingers,
slaughtered by despair.
Our traps
race us in our sleep,
to attend a wedding
between the rain and the desert.
Our pains . . . twitter
While we assassinate ourselves,
hoping some one;
not one of us
will rise
to write a better dirge
while watching the skittering feet of the poor
following their own footprints,
forgetting the phantoms behind,
to the side,
on some other route,
swarming with the dust of honor,
as we abandon our bevy
to increase our number
by . . . one.

Armed with a prayer

by Iqbal Tamimi

Once upon a crime,
the night
hijacked the face of my homeland.
The next day,
the spring was pronounced dead.
My blood
lost its way rivuletting through sand.
I was not courageous enough
to declare
the theft of my skin;
It was stretched by loathsome hands
to create a new face for an old drum.
There . . .
sat my anxiety
on the banks of pain,
washing my punctured voice,
asking me
how would I . . .
fish for my poem’s crumbs in a mine field?
What could I say?
For . . .
I had lost the dawn in the market,
my mouth was stuffed
with the sweat of my exile,
nothing of me remained
my few half-living fingers
exhuming the guts of lines,
a nose . . .
striving hard to find its way home,
and a pair of eyes,
that looked but could not see
of the absent loved ones,
who used to be there for me.
My pulse was swinging,
documenting my name,
alongside others hanging
on the verge of plight.
My loaf was naked.
I was armed only with a prayer.
A child beneath the rubble
Screamed, calling my name
Mama . . . Please . . .
tell them not to execute my kite.

Hidden dimensions

by Nahida Izzat

My first son Hassan
Was born on April the 9th

You might think
So what … why are you saying it
With such a gloomy tune
What is wrong with the 9th of April?

You have to be a Palestinian
To understand
For on the 9th of April 1948
The massacre of Deir Yassin
Took place
Where every man women and child
Of that peaceful farming village
Was killed in cold blood
No one survived
Except those
Who pretended to be dead

As we celebrate the birth of a newborn
With joy
We mourn and grieve
Lost loved ones

In our midst
Nothing becomes insular
Nothing is disjointed
No single colours

The fabric of our lives
Makes the most amazing tapestry

If you hold it backwards
Looking at the wrong side
You’ll see a mirror image
Of shades of a blurred picture
With loops . . . knots and fraying thread
If you turn it over
It looks much neater
But still you can’t actually see
The full picture
Only colours and shadows

But hey . . . take a little time
And walk backwards
Further back
Look at the tapestry
From a distance

You will be amazed
At its outstanding beauty
All these murky shades
That didn’t make sense to you
Even disturbed you
When you were near

From afar
These dark shadows
Are precisely what makes this piece
So unique
So spectacular

These unfathomable hues
Are what give our life portrait
Its depth
And hidden dimensions

Since that day of 1948
Many . . . many babies were born
On April the 9th

Our joys are always stained
With hints of sorrow

Our sadness is always coloured
With hues of hope

Without which
The tapestry of our lives
Will never be complete
Won’t be as rich
Or as beautiful

Don’t waste much time
Staring at the wrong side with fury
Turn it over . . .walk further back . . . and feel the glory

Apollyon I - Night of the Apocalypse

by Nakba

His eyes meet mine with blank incomprehension.
How did you come, my friend, to harm this child?
She was not mine, and no report’s been filed.
So what, old chum?" (Strange lines beyond my scansion.)
          A girl so sweet, if woebegone?
         Why, surely she was everyone’s!
He lifts his eyes, shifts, sighs, spits, unbeguiled.

He does not know that I have come to judge him.
"What’s it to you?" he threatens, with a leer.
She was my child.
"That thing defiled?"
Ten trillion wavering stars blink, disappear.

Her Slender Arm

by Nakba

Her slender arm, her slender arm,
I see it reaching out to me!—
wan, vulnerable, without a charm
or amulet to guard it. Flee!
I scream at her in wild distress.
She chides me with defiant eyes.
Where shall I go? They scream, "Confess!
Confess yourself, your children lice,
your husband mantis, all your kind
unfit to live!"
                        See, or be blind.

I cannot see beyond the gloom
that shrouds her in their terrible dungeon.
I only see the nightmare room,
the implements of torture.
shocks contort her slender frame!
She screams, I scream, we scream in pain!
I sense the shadow-men, insane,
who gibber, drooling, Why are you
not just like US, the Chosen Few?

Suddenly she stares through me
and suddenly I understand:
I hear the awful litany
of names I voted for. My hand
lies firmly on the implement
they plan to use, next, on her children
who huddle in the corner. Bent,
their bidden pawn, I heil Amen!
to their least wish. I hone the blade
"Made in America," their slave.

She has no words, but only tears.
I turn and retch. I vomit bile.
I hear the shadow men’s cruel jeers.
I sense, I feel their knowing smile.
I paid for this. I built this place.
The little that she had, they took
at my expense. Now they erase
her family from life’s tattered book.
I cannot meet her eyes again.
I stand one with the shadow men.

Suffer the Little Children

by Nakba

I saw the carnage . . . saw girls' dreaming heads
blown to red atoms, and their dreams with them . . .

saw babies liquefied in burning beds
as, horrified, I heard their murderers’ phlegm . . .

I saw my mother stitch my shroud’s black hem,
for in that moment I was one of them . . .

I saw our Father’s eyes grow hard and bleak
to see frail roses severed at the stem . . .

How could I fail to speak?

Lines for a Palestinian Mother and Child

by Nakba

I swear her eyes were gentle . . . that she was
a child herself, although she bore a child
close to her breast, her one and only cause.
I watched in apprehension as men filed
in close, goose-stepping ranks on either side,
as if they longed for blood, on Eastertide.
I thought of women slain for being born
the wrong race, sex, caste, or the wrong religion.
I thought of Joan of Arc, her tunic torn,
her breasts exposed, her bloody Inquisition.
I felt the flames and then her screams explode.
I thought of Mary and her dolorous road.
When will religion learn men must repent
of killing even one mild innocent—
both before and after Lent?

The Least of These

by Nakba

Here lies a child of the Holocaust.
Here all her bright dreams lie buried, unknown . . .
lie buried, unlived. And who knows the cost?
No roses grow here by this stone stark as bone.
"Dearly Beloved," her white marker reads,
as many bright sermons on Love have begun,
but this is her end. She lies among weeds
more somber than widows’, six feet from the sun.
Whom shall we cherish? O, whom shall we love?
The war profiteer, or the peaceable dove?
"Made in America," the Cruise Line is read:
now Palestine’s dove lies here—cold, shattered, dead.
Here lie her pieces. Friend, read them, and weep.
Scream blindly for justice, or blind, away creep!

In her dread repose (I)

by Nakba

Find in her pallid, dread repose—
no hope, alas!, for the Rose.

In her dread repose (II)

by Nakba

Find in her pallid, dread repose—
no hope for the World. O, my violated Rose!

The Horror

by Nakba

the Horror is a child who died because
we closed our eyes to simple Nature’s laws,
who knows no justice, but red fangs and claws

the Horror is the child we led to stray
into dark wilds where evil Men hold sway,
then abandoned her, and swiftly walked away

now she lies dead, and many innocents!
the Tiger prowls; He longs to kill; He pants
for blood; before Him, children die like ants

the Tiger rules by Law, red Claw and Tooth,
while Barnums laugh, count Beans, and sip Vermouth.

Lockheed, Take Heed

by Nakba

Terror fell upon my children. Wailing,
they ran toward my arms—small, pale with fright.
They seemed eternities from me—so distant!
Their day exploded. Now I live in night.
"Made in America." I find that tragic.
Though far less tragic than my sweet doves, blown
to atoms by your profits’ ill-bought magic.
Land of the "brave," the "free"? Brave freedom’s flown
to heights unknown—too high to see my people
crushed in the dust by those you love so well.
Sing hymns. Praise God. Erect some higher steeple.
Condemn my kind to poverty, and hell.
"Shock and awe?" Yes, I feel awe—and shock.
You jackals killed my doves, my lambs, my flock!


by Nakba

In 1948,
crying "Holocaust!"
the Jews became the keepers
and mad sweepers of the lost
Palestinian nation,
while every American "Christian"
wept with great elation
to see Yahweh’s "salvation."
He’s the BOSS!

Though He couldn’t take on Hitler,
though Himmler had Him harried,
though Goering had Him groping
for answers—yes, and worried—
though Mengele had mangled
the fairest and the brightest
of all His chosen tribes
and those with whom He’s tightest . . .
He’s the BOSS!

Forget all human justice.
Forget about two wrongs.
Just ply the LORD with money,
pleas, prayers and fervent songs.
Then let the children suffer
and let the strong run wild.
You’re in with heaven’s Duffer!
Your prayers have Him beguiled!
So ... You’re the BOSS!

US Schoolboys

by Nakba

The simple path to peace
begins with a simple step,
as the sun breaks bright to the East
though the schoolboy has long overslept.
O, when will he rise and yawn!
Will he miss how dew spangles the lawn?

The simple path begins
when the schoolboy repents of his sins,
for his balmy vacation’s long over.
There’s no time to be lolling in clover!
Now that the day has begun,
he must rise in accord with the sun.

The path is called Justice . . . and now
he must walk it, and stoutly avow
to follow wherever it leads
till the sun sets blaze to the weeds . . .
he must thresh, so his brothers can find
peace’s path, though the world seems blind.

I Saw

by Nakba

I saw the carnage . . .
saw their dreaming heads
blown to red atoms,
and their dreams with them.

I saw their fathers’ eyes
grow hard and bleak,
as did my own.
I heard their murderers’ phlegm.

I saw them in my dreams;
my knees grew weak . . .
for in that moment I was one of them . . .
How could I fail to speak?


by Nakba

I dreamt last night I was a Palestinian
herded like a cow or a defeated Indian
down some new Trail of Tears, into Gaza’s corral.
And I dreamt that you watched me
from the highest Wall.

I dreamt the whip cracked; how it bit my flesh!
I was gaunter than the skeletons of Bangladesh.
But I stood straight, upright. I refused to fall.
And I dreamt that you watched me
from the highest Wall.

I screamed aloud, but I refused to break
though my geysering blood created red lakes.
My oppressors laughed, Nazis!, but I stood tall.
And I dreamt that you watched me
from the highest Wall.

O, when will you see me, and meet my eye?
O, when will you hear me, and regard my cry?
You put me here. You helped build this cursed Wall
with your nickels and your dimes and your pious calls
for "democracy" and "freedom." How your voice appalls!

Now we all mill here like cattle, in our abattoir stalls.
It was you who interred us. Please, before it’s too late,
break down the fucking wall, fling open hell’s gate!


Nathalie Handal

Nathalie Handal has lived in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and has traveled extensively in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. She is a poet, writer, playwright, editor and literary researcher. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines and literary journals worldwide. Handal has also interviewed numerous writers including Allen Ginsberg, Charles Simic and Mahmoud Darwish. She has read/performed poetry and given talks on Arab-American and Ethnic-American literature and theatre in the United States, Europe, and the Arab world. She is the author of the poetry book, The NeverField, a poetry CD, Traveling Rooms, and the editor of The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology, an Academy of American Poets bestseller. Handal is presently editing two anthologies, Arab-American Literature and Dominican Literature and co-editing along with Tina Chang and Ravi Shankar, Risen from East: An Anthology of South Asian, East Asian and Middle Eastern Poets. She is finishing a play, The Raining Room and her poetry book, Strangers Inside Me, is forthcoming.


A night without a blanket, a blanket
belonging to someone else, someone
else living in our homes.
All I want is the quietness of blame to leave,
the words from dying tongues to fall,
all I want is to see a row of olive trees,
a field of tulips, to forget
the maze of intestines, the dried corners
of a soldier's mouth, all I want is for
the small black eyed child to stop
wondering when the fever will stop
the noise will stop, all I want is
a loaf of bread, some water
and help for the stranger's torn arm,
all I want is what we have inherited
from the doves, a perfect line of white,
but a question still haunts me at night:
where are the bodies?


Secrets live in the space between our footsteps.
The words of my grandfather echoed in my dreams,
as the years kept his beads and town.
I saw Bethlehem, all in dust, an empty town
with a torn piece of newspaper lost in its narrow streets.
Where could everyone be? Graffiti and stones answered.
And where was the real Bethlehem—the one my grandfather came from?
Handkerchiefs dried the pain from my hands. Olive trees and tears continued to remember.
I walked the town until I reached an old Arab man dressed in a white robe.
I stopped him and asked, "Aren't you the man I saw in my grandfather's stories?"
He looked at me and left. I followed him—asked him why he left?
He continued walking. I stopped, turned around and realized
he had left me the secrets in the space between his footsteps.

Excerpts from Jerusalem is Arab Nationalism's Bride
by Muzaffer Al Nawwab

Oh my country, exhibited at the market as a morning star
They are lamenting you in the night brothels
And some revolutionaries are perfecting their manhood
Joggling at the noise of the drum and trumpet
Those are your enemies, my country
Who sold Palestine other than your enemies, O my country?
Who by God, sold Palestine and accumulated such wealth
Other than the list of beggars at the ruler's thresholds
And at the Great Powers' tables?

As soon as the night puts on its veils
The cups crack avowing Jerusalem is your Arab Nationalism's Bride
Ahlan (welcome) ... Ahlan (welcome)
Who sold Palestine other than the pen's revolutionaries?
I have sworn by the bottlenecks of wine, though the cup is full only of

I have sworn by the history of starvation and the day of famine
Not a single Arab would ever last if we remained in this
Among the profiteering rulers

Jerusalem is the bride of your Arab Nationalism
Why did you bring to her room all the night's adulterers
While you remained behind the doors eavesdropping
Hearing the screams of her virginity
Then you drew all your daggers, bragging
Yelling at her to hush lest her honor be blemished
I am not shy when I speak out frankly of your reality
That a yard of hogs is much cleaner than all of you
May the bench of washing the dead move,
But you are immovable
Now I expose, undress you
In all the capitals of this Arab World
You have killed my gaiety
In every alley I see al-Azlam (the idols) Amami (before me)
Till I began avoiding even the phone
Even the walls and even the children
Vomiting for this crude method

Let us sit before the feet of the Arabian Desert
To let her pass judgment on us
I admit before the Desert
That I am as banal, scoundrel and sad
As your defeat
O defeated honorable men
O defeated rulers
O defeated people
How dirty, how dirty, how dirty we are.
How dirty we are,
I don't exclude any one.

Taher Riyad

Riyad was born in 1956 in Amman and was unable to finish his University education because of financial difficulties. He has translated works by Elliot, Becket, Dylan Thomas and others into Arabic. Riyad participated in poetry festivals all over the Arab world. His work is featured in Bruta's poetry selection "Poets of the End of the Century". Riyad is co-director of a publishing house in Jordan, and has published a number of poetry collections. His works are considered to be among the most original, combining the eloquence of classical poetry and the innovation of modernist Arabic poetry.

From "Signs"

I .
I am not the shade who upholds the bare tree
against its dissolution,
I'm not hunger to strap stones round my belly and suck
your emaciated breast.
I am think like the figure of fear,
I contain the thirst of embers
to transform themselves back to branches,
I do not pray for what's to come
—nothing will come—
and I don't concede to reverence.
It is a chain of ants that raised this earth
and now erodes it slowly.

Your face is purer than the mirror,
luxurious and more eager.
Colours rejoice around your head, rejoice
and Ah , they suffer.
Offer death a libation for the past,
it may accept and stay.
And it's the same: your destroying a lover
or your destroying things out of love.
Now the mirror's clouded for you; break it
and say: "My eyes see better ."

I just forgot
nothing more
I forgot
the salt of creation scorches my eyes
and the sand of insomnia
I try to remember:
Does water describe the shape of fountains,
their pattern of fluidity ,
and indicate the day's greenness,
or does water have
the shape of drowning ?

IV. Rejoice twice:
when you see the sand turn wet and soft
and when it becomes water

Twice rejoice:
tomorrow will be overcast
and shade compose a sky

And hide just once
for a scoundrel might inherit the earth
and scratch the living.

May Sayigh

Sayigh was born in 1940 in Gaza. She obtained in BA in sociology from Cairo University. She was the president of the Union of Palestinian Women and has been very active in the cause of Palestinian women. She has published a number of poetry collections, as well as a prose account of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon in "The Siege". She lives in Paris.


In this moment of departure,
point your red arrows,
disarm the lightning, and open wide
the gate to my exile.
Close the sky's open face, and ride away.
I long so deeply that the shores unfold their seas
and horses bolt!
Now I'll carry the roads and palm trees in my suitcase,
I'll lock my tears in the evening's copybooks
and seal the seasons.

Let's begin our song: here is Beirut wearing you
like her own clothes.
You must sit well on the surface of her glory
abandoning tears
In her blue froth
She contains you like eternity
like the sense of beginning that comes with certainty.

—How can you be dead, yet so absolutely present?

Let the rivers abandon their skies,
and the seas dry out!
Everything in the universe has an end
except my spilt blood...

Each time I think of it
You remain as large as your death.
The war planes choose you, discover you, plant
their blackness in you.
From all those clouded last visions,
how will you begin the story of harvest?
We planes select you,
at the start of your sleep,
at the end of your sleep.
How often did the sky explode over you
with hatred?
How often were you taken aside?
How many massacres did you survive ?
Now you collect all the wounds, taking refuge with
wearing dreams as wings.

Mohammed al Qaissi

Al Qaissi was born in 1944 near Jaffa, and was raised in refugee camps. He has a BA in Arabic literature. He worked as a teacher and as a journalist, and lives in Jordan. He is one of the most prolific poets of his generation, his poetry is varied stylistically as he uses the free verse as well as the two hemistich verse. Thematically, he occasionally includes literary and historical allusions and folklore. In 1984 he received the Arab Literary Award from the Jordanian Literary society. After a thirty-year career as a poet, he announced in 1998 his decision to devote himself solely to prose writing.


I see the faces change their complexion
peel off their outer skin
I see faces divested
of makeup and masks
and I see an empty stage
the spectators danying their own images
in the third act.
I see a poor man rise
and dream of recreating order.
He doesn't frequent the idlers' cafes
The papers don't carry his picture,
news agencies don't relay his words.
He carves the image of his absent love
on the ceiling of a mountain cave
and sings.

Zakaria Mohammed

Mohammed was born in 1951 in the Nablus area. He studied Arabic literature at Baghdad University. In addition to his poetry publications, he published his first novel in 1996 and a collection of plays in 1999. His poetry is considered to be one of the best examples of modernist Arabic poetry. He participated in the 1999 Medellin International Poetry Festival in Colombia, and the 2001 Arab World Institute poetry festival in Paris. He lives in Ramallah, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Sakakini Center.

A Tavern

Here the dead are carousing
Here they shake their heads
to the music of shroud bells.


They're all gone
towards that place in the North
where the grasses grow
to the height of their breasts
They left behind them
tattered strips from their children's clothes
and the pegs of their tents
They're gone
Their children on the backs of mules
Their youths carrying baskets
and their sheep's bells
They were like a cloud
climbing up to heaven
The more they penetrated the land
the more their shadows expanded
and returned towards the camps

Their dogs were mute
They would surpass the migrating crowd, then sit down
their eyes watching
the moving shadows
as they ran back ward
like a dark river.

Ali El Khalili

Ali El Khalili was born in Nablus in 1943. He graduated in 1966 from the Arab University of Beirut with a degree in Business Administration. He worked as a teacher, a journalist, and editor in chief of newspapers, both in Palestine and in Arab countries; and is now a Director General in the Palestinian ministry of culture. A prolific writer, he is also a short story writer, a novelist, and has published books on Palestinian folklore.

Dialectics of the Homeland

Beyond the rainy cloud, the rose, and the pagan dream
and remnants of the old pledge.

The lovers are no more the lovers
And the murderers are similarly transposed,
O homeland, drowning in mystic symbols and in blood,
Lost homeland!
Teach us to exist in the age of lost things
Teach us to unlock barred doors
To fertilize a barren land
Discover in you the cloud and the rose
Illuminate the tired masses.
Homeland of lost things,
Teach us to conceive trees and children,
When the promised sun and the promised wind
Are concealed or revealed
Teach us that the murderers are visible in you
And the murdered invisible.

Glory to the dead, who dispersed among the people who burned:
—Who ploughs fire?
—They plundered all secrets.
Apes huddled around the tended fire.

The blocked horizon rained.
Who can dam a river between one finger and another?
Who steals a moon that blossoms at a marriage of simple peasants?
Homeland of the newborn mother,
We have concealed a wound, exposed another
Witnessed blood as water, water as blood,
We did not fall,
Beyond the rainy cloud, the rose, and the pagan dream
bridges extend,
beyond the noose is the lily
green corpses pressed in the books of simple people
and in the memory of the struggling masses.
The peaks of death are torture and the taut tones of the voice
The peaks of death are magnificent, for who can possess
his own death lacerated by
obstructed paths?

4 .They passed at the twilight of revolution of lost things
Who owns the truth of death?
The customary slates are split:
Death without death
Voice without voce
Homeland without homeland.
Only the poor, the workers, the outcasts,
the elect at the dawn of the revolution
remain loyal to the wound, to the truth of death,
to the meaning of the song.

Cry my beloved country
by Raja Mattar

Cry for my non-existent childhood
Cry for my stolen youth
Cry for my uprooted olive trees
Cry for my village which lost its name
Cry for the maimed children
Cry for the widowed mothers
And cry for the raped land.
A land I tended with my tears

Yes, cry, as I am crying
For non-caring kin
Yes, cry as I am crying
For non-caring humanity
Cry because I stopped crying
I have no more tears to spare
I need them for my children's graves

My children have gone to war
They will not come back alive
They think their blood will bring back the olive trees
They think that their blood will wipe out the infamy
Of kin who did not raise a finger
Of humanity which did not utter a word
To protect my olive trees

* Theme inspired by the title of the South African writer Alan Paton's book "Cry the Beloved Country"


Manasra was born in Hebron in 1946 and obtained in 1981 a Ph.D in Slavic literature from the Bulgarian Academy of Science. He was the Director of cultural programs in Jordanian radio, editor of Palestinian Affairs magazine, and worked as a professor of comparative literature in Constantine University in Algeria. Al-Manasra has been the Secretary general of the Arab Contemporary Literary Society since 1984. He has published many critical studies and many volumes of poetry. He is regarded as one of the foremost Palestinian poets of protest and resistance. He participated in the Palestinian Cultural Spring held in France in 1997.One of his main areas of interest has been reviving the style and themes of Canaanite poetry. He lives in Jordan.

Dawn Visitors

At the entries to capital cities I met him,
distracted and sad,
a man with worry lines
that weighed him down
like a cypress tree, drooping and silent,
despite the winds that ruffled him
whispering in the evenings-
but he would not answer the wind..
At the gates of capital cities-I cannot name them
but I sing their Arabic names when troubles reign-
I call on the capitals when shells are slaughtering my people's
children. I call on them, I scream, but no one
They've all travelled west, and north. I wish
they'd gone east, I wish
they'd become stars in exile, servants to strangers.
At harvest time they sang under the pine trees
but none of the harvests was theirs..
it is for those hard hearted men
who owns the land of exile
Don't bury me in any Arab capital, they've all tortured me
for so long,
giving me nothing but death and suffering and poverty
and the martyred neighbors of my grave,
those new kinsmen, for every stranger is kinsman to the stranger.
No, don't bury me in any Arab capital
at the mercy of this ordeal!

At the gate of the capitals I met him
his head forever bent,
immortal as the earth of Hebron,
proud as the mountains of Safad.
He was soft like old wine when it steeps inside the body.

I would have tempted the stars
to accompany his beautiful departure,
a star to guard him, and one lovely maiden
to tend him forever

Ghassan Zaqtan

Ghassan Zaqtan was born in 1954 near Bethlehem. He obtained a teachers' training degree from Jordan and worked as a physical education teacher. Zaqtan worked with the Palestinian resistance movement and was editor of Bayader literary magazine of the PLO. He is the editor of the literary page of the Al-Ayyam daily newspaper in Ramallah, and the editor of the new poetry quarterly Al-Shou'ara. He has published a number of poetry collections, and his first novel in 1995. His poetry abounds with luminous imagery, ranging in topics from life and death to the particular themes running through contemporary life. He has participated in countless international poetry festivals, and his works have also been translated into French. He lives in Ramallah.


He pointed for us . . .
this way.
And disappeared
in the wreckage of houses
after the explosion
his fingers in the wall-gap
still pointing:
this way . . .
this way.


Is there still time
to tell her,
good evening,
I've come back
with a bullet in my heart
There is my pillow
I want to lie down
and rest.
If the war
ever comes knocking,
tell them: he's taking
his rest.

Zuheir Abu Shayeb

Zuheir Abu Shayeb was born in the village of Deir Ghusun in 1958, and obtained a BA in Arabic Literature from Jordan's Yarmouk University in 1983. He worked as a teacher, a graphic designer, and is also an art critic. He has several poetry collections, and is considered one of the most promising poets in the Arab world.


they found him
luminous, green, in the field.
When they raise his hands
the grasses under them had turned to hearts.

It is said:
wheatstalks bloomed beneath his sleeves.
It is said:
the birds carried his blood
to his beloved cousins.
He shall return
Blossoming with volcanoes,
and fill again his mother's breasts.
When they found him green as light
they shrouded him with rose buds,
they spread out the sky to lay him on
and made the sun his pillow.

Youssef Abd al-Aziz

Youssef Abd al-Aziz was born in Beit Inan near Jerusalem in 1956, and graduated from the Arab University of Beirut in 1986. Abd-al-Aziz taught in UNRWA schools in Jordan where he currently resides. He has published several collections of poetry. He received the Jordanian Writers Society award for his poetry collection "Haifa to Shqeif". Abd al-Aziz's experimentalist poems are considered to be among the best in Palestinian poetry.

The House

When I met her by chance
she was a woman whose lips and braids radiated.
She plucked a flower from my ribs
and flew to the fountainhead
where she built her house from its shining silk.
When I kissed her,
she ran like a gazelle
shimmering across God's open country.
I said, "Who are you, mare of the water?"
and she said. "I am queen".
When I embraced her
she engulfed me with her waves
and lit my spirit's stars.
I said, "Who are you, velvet flower?"
She said, "I am the down of the nightingale,
the milk of kisses."
When I gave her my sweetest embrace
and performed my ritual prayer,
she stormed through me, through every cell and vein
and erected on my dead body
a house for life.

Taha Muhammad Ali

Taha Muhammad Ali is one of the leading poets on the contemporary Palestinian literary scene. Born in 1931 in Galilee village of Saffuriya, he fled to Lebanon, together with most of the inhabitants of his village, during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. A year later he slipped back across the border with his family and settled in Nazareth, where he has lived ever since. The Saffuriya of his childhood has served as the nexus of his poetry and fiction, which are grounded in everyday experience and driven by a storyteller's vivid imagination. He is self-taught and began his poetry career late (in 1983). Taha Muhammad Ali writes in a forceful and direct style, with disarming humor and unflinching, at times painful, honest—the poetry's apparent simplicity and homespun truths concealing the subtle grafting of classical Arabic and colloquial forms of expression. In Israel, in the West Bank and Gaza, and in Europe, audiences have been powerfully moved by Taha Muhammad Ali's poems of political complexity and humanity. He has published several collections of poetry and is also a short story writer.


Lovers of hunting,
and beginners seeking your prey:
Don't aim your rifles
at my happiness,
which isn't worth
the price of the bullet
(you'd waste on it).
What seems to you
so nimble and fine,
like a fawn,
and flees
every which way,
like a partridge,
isn't happiness.
Trust me:
my happiness bears
no relation to happiness.

Thrombosis in the Veins of Petroleum

When I was a child
I fell into the abyss
but didn't die;
I drowned in the pond
when I was young,
but did not die;
and now, God help us—
one of my habits is running
into battalions of land mines
along the border,
as my songs
and the days of my youth
are dispersed:
here a flower,
there a scream;
and yet,
I do not die!

They butchered me
on the doorstep
like a lamb for the feast—
in the veins of petroleum;
In God's name
they slit my throat
from ear to ear
a thousand times,
and each time
my dripping blood would swing
back and forth
like the feet of a man
hanged from a gallows,
and come to rest,
a large, crimson mallow
a beacon
to guide ships
and mark
the site of palaces
and embassies.
And tomorrow,
God help us—
the phone won't ring
in a brothel or castle,
and not in a single Gulf Emirate,
except to offer a new prescription
for my extermination.
But ...
just as the mallow tells us,
and as the borders know,
I won't die! I will not die!!
I'll linger on—a piece of shrapnel
the size of a penknife
lodged in the neck;
I'll remain—
a blood stain
the size of a cloud
on the shirt of this world!

From Never Mind: Twenty Poems and a Story, translated by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, and Gabriel Levin (Ibis Editions 2000)

Samer Abu-Hawwash

Samer Abu Hawwash was born in Beirut in 1972 to a family of Palestinian refugees. Since 1991 he has published poetry and articles in various Lebanese newspapers and magazines.He graduated in 1996 from the Lebanese University of Journalism and Communication. He has published two collections of his own poetry and works as a arts journalist for Al-Mustaqbal newspaper, Beirut. Since 2004 he has lived and worked in the UAE, working on his project of translating American poetry. He has to date published eight collections of translated poetry, including poets such as Ai, Charles Buckowski, Langston Hughes, Kim Addonizio, Robert Bly. He has translated many contemporary English-language novels into Arabic including: Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Yann Martel's Life of Pi and Hanif Kureishi's Buddha of Suburbia.

A cold day
translated by Sharif S Elmusa

A cold day
I don't think at all
to turn on the heat
wear a third sweater
or stand by the window
and wait for the rain
because it won't fall today
it will fall tomorrow
and I won't ask ever
how old I've become
at this hour
it is sometimes sufficient to sit
and think
it is a cold day

Mureed Barghouti

Mureed Barghouti is one of the most famous Palestinian poets. He was born in 1944 in the village of Deir Ghassani and lived most of his life in the Diaspora. He worked as a teacher in Kuwait for four years and at the "Palestine Radio" in Cairo. He lived in Budapest as a PLO representative. He currently lives in Cairo. His works started as patriotic poems, and evolved into a modernist sensibility and produced some of the most compelling poetic experiments among Arab poets of his generation. He has several collections of poetry. He was awarded Cairo's American University 1997 Mahfouz Najib Literature Prize for his first essay Ra'ayt Ramallah (I saw Ramallah) about his return to Palestine after years of exile. The book was translated into English by the AUC. Barghouti is a member of the Sakakini General Assembly.


Slow is the hand of evening as it closes the window
draws the heavy blinds
and gathers the ashtrays overflowing with stubs.
She draws her face close to the mirror for a minute
"they are late...they are very late"...
the clock on the wall ticks in the ordinary way
slow are her steps to bed
cold is the evening
the touch of the blanket.
She pulls the cover over the body
and leaves the lights on in all the rooms

from Rain Inside
poems by Ibrahim Nasrallah
translated by Omnia Amin and Rick London


When all the birds in the world flap their wings in unison
as one body, when the waters of springs and mountain streams
gather in a dusty palm,
when a human being runs
and trees and the hidden future follow him,
when the world becomes simple
and I can climb onto a table in the office of the daily news
and speak of your love to the elegant shuttered windows,
to the good and bad paintings on the walls,
when I am able to freely place a gentle kiss
on your cheek in public,
when I am able to return with you after midnight
without a police patrol desecrating our bodies
in search of a confession,
when we can run in the streets
without anyone pronouncing us crazy,
when I am able to sing
and share a stranger's umbrella
and when she in turn may share my loaf of bread,
when you are able to say I love you
without fear of death or imprisonment
and I can open a window in the morning
without being silenced by a bullet,
when I am able to grow older
and the trees are added to your attire
and we can count the drops of rain on each other's faces
and can sing and love free of weapons,
raids, chronic fear, and disappearances—
another world will begin,
a new homeland will have been readied.
But for now we announce a new beginning with our death,
a new beginning of love.

Related pages: Christians may want to consider the ethical question What would Jesus do? If you are unfamiliar with the real history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, or have been told that Israel is "only defending itself," please read Albert Einstein's 1948 letter to the New York Times and Einstein on Palestine: the Prophet of Peace. If you want to understand how the maps below relate to Israel's new offensive against Gaza, known as Operation "Pillar of Defense" or the biblical "Pillar of Clouds," please click here Amud Annan "Pillar of Fire." If you want to hear the opinion of the former U.S. president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who negotiated peace talks between Israel and Palestinians, please click here Jimmy Carter: "Israeli policy is to confiscate Palestinian territory." You may also want to read and consider Israeli Prime Ministers who were Terrorists; they include Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon and David Ben-Gurion.

Map 1 of 1946 Palestine shows more than 90% of the land belonging to Palestinians; at this point Jewish settlers had paid for most of the land they occupied
Map 2 of 1947 U.N. partition plan of Israel and Palestine; the land in the white areas was not "given" to Israel; Israeli Jews took the additional land
Map 3 of 1967 borders of Israel and Palestine; these are the "1967 lines" aka as the "1949 armistice lines"; once again Israeli Jews took the additional land
Map 4 of 2000 borders shows how Israel keeps taking land outside its legal borders, creating discontiguous Palestinian

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