Two Poems

A Woman in Damascus That Year

Her soul’s in my hand and she knows I’m there

medicating speech

 

with the wool that clouds left behind

on the roof of sleep

 

I climb a ladder of thirty collars

endings are up higher

as are the women who stand on the threshold

of longing tears

 

And she knows I’m there lighting a fire

for creatures to find her heart

 

I shoo grasshoppers

out of the grass in her stride, day into shadow

afternoon into night

 

While slow buses, memories of the countryside

and the angel’s house

are all reclining on slopes

waiting for an end

 

 

While She’s Asleep In Baghdad

Her face’s been asleep for a while

or perhaps she looks older in sleep,

had grown older or had been crying

 

Her heart doesn’t see

and the little sky, the river,

the women standing on the edge of the field

and the five absent brothers

light up at the beginning of memories

as we walk that path alone

the two of us

 

“Pick a flower!

we may believe

we’re here

 

and when we’re called

for no reason other than to be called

let’s go to where

 

we can’t stay

and our bodies, after us, will chuckle”

 

A flower

and its house in air are

between us

 

Light darkens behind the curtains

the river darkens,

the bridge, the women stand in vain

the shelves,  the talk that’s on its way to others,

the clothes and her laugh in air

 

Then her age

was no longer clear

 

Only her heart appeared

to lean as it climbed the oil painting

where the women on the edge of the field

were and the field was

wilting

 

And where I can not cry or fear

I narrate:

Only her heart appeared

 

and the years

that resembled horses

kept running

 

 

 

 

Ghassan Zaqtan is the author of ten collections of poetry. He is also a novelist, editor. He was born in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, and has lived in Jordan, Beirut, Damascus, and Tunis. His book Like a Straw it Follows Me, translated by Fady Joudah, was awarded the Griffen Poetry Prize, 2013. He is nominated among the short-listed award winners of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature 2014 / University of Oklahoma, perceived as the American Nobel Prize. In recognition of his achievement and contribution to Arabic and Palestinian literature, Ghassan Zaqtan was awarded the National Medal of Honor by the Palestinian president in June 2013. His name appeared for the first time in the fall of 2013 among the speculation list for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Ghassan Zaqtan’s work has been translated to English, French, Italian, Norwegian, German and other languages.

Fady Joudah’s is the author if Textu, and his second collection of poetry, Alight, was published by Copper Canyon Press in winter 2013. His translations of Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry have earned him a PEN prize and a TLS/Banipal prize. He is the 2007 winner of the Yale Series Younger Poets Competition for his collection The Earth in the Attic. He is also the winner of  the 2013 Griffin International Poetry Prize. His translation of Ghassan Zaqtan’s poetry is available from Yale University Press.

 

Issue #29 November 2013
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