Translated by Pina Piccolo, from the Italian translation by Sana Darghmouni and Simone Sibilio.
I have tried to contact you since the beginning of war
For Fatena al Ghorra, Heba Alagha and Fidaa Ziyad
I could swear that behind the communications
blackout between Gaza and the outside world
I would find the three of you
I see them, those three hearts
-war after war-
and know that they craved
to tear the frame off its picture.
Now look at what the three of you have done:
A war is being played out in Gaza outside the picture
Wrathful is this war
an irrational war
by now even eyeless,
so it strikes Khan Yunis with its fists
Deir al Balah
the beach of Gaza
Jabalia in the North
al-Nuseirat in the middle
Rafah in the South.
You three have torn the eyes off the war
I know this is not the time to flatter you
but then what is the most appropriate time for
pampering if not in the midst of pain?
So then! chain my arms, these crazy arms of mine,
to the tree of shadows
drop in the White Sea
the anchors holding up its hair
and tear open its stomach
so that this fire has a way out.
Then restore communications
perhaps the outside world can see
what we have seen for 76 years,
what lies hidden in the belly of war
we sure know it but they don’t
or they know it yet deny it.
For Muhammad Zaqzuq
I still laugh at your way
of describing your trip to Germany
Did you really go there?
Were they getting ready even then
to commit the crime of cutting
communication between us?
I have been trying to call you since the war began
but you don’t answer.
I told myself:
Muhammad is probably well,
I haven’t read your name among the martyrs’
but even if it weren’t the case, God forbid,
I know very well how adaptable you are,
I know how you make do with everything
You told me last November while
you drove me back from Rafah to Gaza:
‘Take me anywhere you please, as long as it’s outside Gaza.’
I knew you’d come back
I know how happy that makes you
I haven’t found this kind of fulfillment
my friend, if not between your wings
So spread them out
And stay alive
And, then ANSWER
when I call you.
For the Sardine
I have no doubt now, sardine
that you have abandoned your form
so much in need of the sea,
now that the sea is besieged.
You asked me
in a soft voice:
‘Grant me the gift of shifting between
Then with your little body you flew
you played in a space where there was no lead
you grew tired
then made your descent
and returned to your original form:
A beautiful girl in her early twenties
yet younger than her age
who wants to live a long life
full of love
Who else, my little friend
could be more appropriate for life
and more becoming for love?
For Akram Sourani
I wish I could hear your voice, my friend,
truly, no encrypted message will ever
be up to par.
Your irony wasn’t just with words
it was infused in your voice
and your unique laughter,
that make you special when you laugh
in a way that is impossible describe.
Your laughter, Akram
when it swoops down on us
who are your friends
we split our sides with laughter.
So come back from this hiding place
of yours, come back
and have us killed with laughter
For Othman Hussein
What are you doing now?
How do you entertain yourself, my friend?
Perhaps you watch children play in the neighborhood
and you call them:
‘Come back soon
Faster than bullets?’
Does Bahia read poetry to you?
I want to know what Bahia chose to read to you
or what you chose to hear delivered by her voice?
This will never stop the war
You and I are well aware
that poetry doesn’t stop war
This is nothing but a message between two hearts,
in this time of communication blackouts.
Ahlam Bsharat is a Palestinian novelist, poet, and children’s author, as well as a teacher of creative writing. She is a prominent and highly regarded author of YA novels in the Arab world, and her books have met with great success at the local and international levels. They have been included in IBBY lists, shortlisted for the Palestine Book Award (UK) and Etisalat Award for Children’s Literature (UAE). She has presented twice and run creative writing workshops at the Emirates Literature Festival in Dubai, and participated in numerous creative writing forums in Europe.
Two of her novels, Code Name: Butterfly and Trees for the Absentees, have been translated into English and her most celebrated recent Arabic YA novels are: “مريم سيدة الإسطرلاب ” Maryam Sayida al-Astrolab ,“جنجر” Ginger and “مصنع الذكريات ” Masna’ adh-dhikariyat. Her latest publication, “اسم الطائر ” Ism aT-Taa’ir, is a collection of poetry rooted in her peasant origins. She tells of village life with a rawness and directness in these poems, and without the usual romanticization of this subject matter. Her next book to be published, “طعم فمي” Ta’m fami, tells of her evocative memories of food whilst growing up in the Palestinian valleys. She is currently working on a book that chronicles her personal experience living in the region.