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Samih al-Qasim: Two Poems

[Mahmoud Darwish (l.) and Samih al-Qasim (r.) with Muhammad Mahdi al-Jawahiri, c. 1968-9, image from Isqineeha] [Mahmoud Darwish (l.) and Samih al-Qasim (r.) with Muhammad Mahdi al-Jawahiri, c. 1968-9, image from Isqineeha]


1. “RAFAH’S CHILDREN” (1971)

To the one who digs his path through the wounds of millions

To he whose tanks crush all the roses in the garden

Who breaks windows in the night

Who sets fire to a garden and museum and sings of freedom.

Who stomps on songbirds in the public square.

Whose planes drop bombs on childhood’s dream.

Who smashes rainbows in the sky.


Tonight, the children of the impossible roots have an announcement for you,

Tonight, the children of Rafah say:

“We have never woven hair braids into coverlets.

We have never spat on corpses, nor yanked their gold teeth.

So why do you take our jewelry and give us bombs?

Why do you prepare orphanhood for Arab children?

Thank you, a thousand times over!

Our sadness has now grown up and become a man.

And now, we must fight.”


2.“SHALOM” (1964)

Let someone else sing about peace,

Sing of friendship, brotherhood and harmony.

Let someone else sing about crows

Someone who will shriek about the ruins in my verses

To the dark owl haunting the debris of the pigeon towers.

Let someone else sing about peace

While the grain in the field brays,

Longing for the echo of the reapers’ songs.

Let someone else sing for peace.

While over there, behind the barbed fences

In the heart of darkness,

Tent cities cower.

Their inhabitants,

Settlements of sadness and anger

And the tuberculosis of memory.

While over there, life is snuffed out,

In our people,

In innocents, who never did any harm to life!

And meanwhile, here,

So many have poured in … so much abundance!

Their forefathers planted so much abundance for them,

And also, alas, for others.

This inheritance—the sorrows of years—belongs to them now!

So let the hungry eat their fill.

And let the orphans eat leftovers from the banquet of malice.

Let someone else sing peace.

For in my country, on its hills and in its valleys

Peace has been murdered. 

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