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Three Poems

[Ghassan Zaqtan. Image from Author] [Ghassan Zaqtan. Image from Author]

Three Poems

Ghassan Zaqtan

Translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah. 

That Life

I’m going to see how they died
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
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

Collective Death

Evening didn’t come without its darkness
we slept roofless but with cover
and no survivor came in the night
to tell us of the death of others.
The roads kept whistling
and the place was packed with the murdered
who came from the neighboring quarter
whose screams escaped toward us.
We saw and heard
the dead walk on air
tied by the thread of their shock
their rustle pulling our bodies
off our glowing straw mats.
A glistening blade
kept falling over the roads.
The women gave birth only to those who passed
and the women will not give birth


Will They Believe

Will the children forgive the generation
trampled by horses of war, exile and preparation for departure?

Will they think of us as we were:
ambushes in ravines
we’d shake our jealousy
and carve trees into the earth’s shirt
to sit under
we the factional fighters
who’d shoo the clouds of war out of their carriages
and peer around our eternal siege
or catch the dead
like sudden fruit fallen on a wasteland?

Will the children forgive what we were:
missile shepherds and masters of exile and chaotic celebration
whenever a neighboring war gestured to us
we’d rise
to set up in its braids a place
good for love and residence?

The bombing rarely took a rest
the missile launchers rarely returned unharmed
we rarely picked flowers for the dead or went on
with our lives
If only that summer had
given us a bit of time’s space
before our mad departure

Will they believe?

* * *

[Translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah. From Ghassan Zaqtan, Butulat al-Ashya’ (The Heroism of Things) (Beirut: Dar al-Kalimah, 1988)]

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