I’m listening to the grass as it splits through my skin

Listen close to the aching but fierce heartbeat of acclaimed Palestinian poet Najwan Darwish (1978-) in the opening piece of his first collection to appear in English, Nothing More to Lose. The rest of his book, which was just published in 2014, is as layered and complex as the ruins of this tormented landscape; order a copy for your local library if you can.

“Nothing More to Lose”

Lay your head on my chest and listen
to the layers of ruins
behind the madrasah of Saladin
hear the houses sliced open
in the village of Lifta
hear the wrecked mill, the lessons and reading
on the mosque’s ground floor
hear the balcony lights
go out for the very last time
on the heights of Wadi Salib
hear the crowds drag their feet
and hear them returning
hear the bodies as they’re thrown, listen
to their breathing on the bed
of the Sea of Galilee
listen like a fish
in a lake guarded by an angel
hear the tales of the villagers, embroidered
like kaffiyehs in the poems
hear the singers growing old
hear their ageless voices
hear the women of Nazareth
as they cross the meadow
hear the camel driver
who never stops tormenting me
Hear it
and let us, together, remember
then let us, together forget
all that we have heard

Lay your head on my chest:
I’m listening to the dirt
I’m listening to the grass
as it splits through my skin . . .

We lost our heads in love
and have nothing more to lose

Translated from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid