The air smelled of burning clementine groves.

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From Hijra, by the Palestinian American poet, author, and clinical psychologist Hala Alyan (1986-).

“Seham”

Sit and I’ll tell you of my father’s prayer rug,
dark as plums with yellow borders,

borders like the map we ate, grit tangled
between our teeth, the years swelling

like one hundred arrows. Here,
have some stew, taste June in the steam.

Did I tell you about the name we bore
like armor, the earth they spat up

with fishbone? After they planted copper
in our eyes, we went on planting suns over

the graves. The air smelled of
burning clementine groves. We fed

our daughters until they grew
redwoods and oak trees instead of hearts,

the fever we took from the land when
our ribs turned into compasses.

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

I love autumn and the shade of meanings

I could probably fill this entire blog with poems by the phenomenal Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008).

“I love autumn and the shade of meanings.”

I love autumn and the shade of meanings.
Delighted in autumn by a light obscurity,
transparency of handkerchiefs, like poetry just after
birth, dazzled in night-blaze or darkness.
It crawls, and finds no names for anything.

Shy rain, which moistens only distant things,
delights me.
(In such autumns, marriage procession
and funeral intersect: the living
celebrate with the dead, and the dead
celebrate with the living.)

I delight to see a monarch stoop,
to recover the pearl of the crown from a fish in the lake.

In autumn I delight to see the commonness of colors,
no throne holds the humble gold in the leaves of humble trees
who are equal in the thirst for love.

I delight in the truce between armies,
awaiting the contest between two poets,
who love the season of autumn, yet differ
over the direction of its metaphors.

In autumn I delight in the complicity between
vision and expression.

translated by Mohammad Shaheen