This isn’t a place to call home

illustration of a spider web between bicycle handlebars with sunflowers fading in the background
Art by Kristina Closs

“Mimesis”

My daughter
                        wouldn’t hurt a spider
That had nested
Between her bicycle handles
For two weeks
She waited
Until it left of its own accord

If you tear down the web I said
It will simply know
This isn’t a place to call home
And you’d get to go biking

She said that’s how others
Become refugees isn’t it?

by Fady Joudah (1971-) from Alight

We love life if we find a way to it.

Ramadan Kareem to those of you who are observing this month. Here’s a poem from the late great Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008), whose words I grew up with and who has long been a touchstone of mine.

Image of a heart surrounded by jasmine with minarets and palm trees coming out of it
Art by Kristina Closs

“And We Love Life”

And we love life if we find a way to it.
We dance in between martyrs and raise a minaret for violet or palm trees.

We love life if we find a way to it.
And we steal from the silkworm a thread to build a sky and fence in this departure.

We open the garden gate for the jasmine to go out as a beautiful day on the streets.

We love life if we find a way to it.

And we plant, where we settle, some fast growing plants, and harvest the dead.
We play the flute like the color of the faraway, sketch over the dirt corridor a neigh.
We write our names one stone at a time, O lightning make the night a bit clearer.

We love life if we find a way to it…

translated from Arabic by Fady Joudah

what planet in the widow’s hand?

Today I give you just one of the searing poems from The Silence that Remains by Palestinian poet, novelist, and journalist Ghassan Zaqtan (1954-), translated by Palestinian-American poet and physician Fady Joudah (1971-).

ghassanres

“That Life”

I’m going to see how they died
I’m going toward that wreckage
going to see them there
tranquil on the hill of engagement

Dear Wednesday’s narcissus, what time is it
what death is it
what planet in the widow’s hand
five or three?

Her dress was blooming
              we were
neglected flowers on her dress

Dear women’s thresholds, how much is a lifetime
what time is a river
how many daggers in the blood
of the whirling storm
five or three?

We let the city play
and rolled our widespread shrouds shut

I’m going to see how they died
I’m going toward that wreckage
going to see their death
hills of the north
wind-rise of the south
I’m going to call them by their names