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Two Poems by Rashid Hussein

[1980 Land Day Poster by Abed Abdi. Image from Unknown Archive] [1980 Land Day Poster by Abed Abdi. Image from Unknown Archive]

March 30th is Yam al-Ard (Land Day). It marks the general strike and marches organized in Palestinian towns in Israel on that day in 1976 to protest the Israeli government’s expropriation of thousands of dunams of land for “security and settlement purposes.” Six Palestinians were killed in the confrontations. The day and its events marked a turning point in national mobilization and the relationship between Palestinian citizens and the Israeli state. It became an annual day of commemoration for Palestinians everywhere.

Rashid Hussein (1936-1977) was born in Musmus, Palestine. He published his first collection in 1957 and established himself as a major Palestinian poet and orator. He participated in founding the Land Movement in 1959. He left in 1966 and lived in Syria and Lebanon and later in New York City where he died in February, 1977. He was buried a week later in Musmus. His funeral was attended by thousands of Palestinians.

With the Land

The land comes near me
drinks from me
leaves its orchards with me
to become a beautiful weapon
defending me

Even when I sleep
the land comes near me
in my dream.
I smuggle its wild thyme
between exiles
I sing its stones
I will even sweat blood
from my veins
to drink its news
so the land comes near me
leaves a stone of love with me
to defend it
and defend me

When I repay it
I will embrace it a thousand times
I will worship it a thousand times
I will celebrate its wedding on my forehead
on the rubble of exiles
and the ruins of prisons

I will drink from it
It will drink from me
So that the Galilee would remain
beauty, struggle, and love
defending it
defending me

I see the land;
a morning that will come
and the land will come near me


Without a Passport

I was born without a passport
I grew up
and saw my country
become prisons
without a passport

So I raised a country
a sun
and wheat
in every house
I tended to the trees therein
I learned how to write poetry
to make the people of my village happy
without a passport

I learned that he whose land is stolen
does not like the rain
If he were ever to return to it, he will
without a passport

But I am tired of minds
that have become hotels
for wishes that never give birth
except with a passport

Without a passport
I came to you
and revolted against you
so slaughter me
perhaps I will then feel that I am dying
without a passport

* Translated by Sinan Antoon. The two poems appear in Rashid Hussein, Al-A`mal al-Shi`riyya (al-Taybe: Markaz Ihya’ al-Turath al-`Arabi, 1990)

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