A Special Section of Israeli and Palestinian Poets
featuring: Rivka Miriam, Mureed Barghouthy, Shaul Knaz, Fadwa Tuqan,
Yehuda Amichai, Anton Shammas, Karen Alkalay-Gut, and Mahmoud Darwish
 

 
 
Rivka Miriam
 
Translated by Daniel Weissbort and Orna Raz, and by Linda Zisquit, from
the Hebrew
               
                              So by the altar ....
 
So, by the altar, Isaac wished to remain,
his father's gnarled hands working on him
taking him out from the world
just as he brought him into it
with a roaring desire.
 
Abraham was tying his son
as with umbilical cords
to return him to his old, brittle loins--
the ones Sarah laughed at.
 
So, by the altar, Isaac wished to remain
getting smaller
turning again into the hidden sperm of his father
blue as a dream,
many as the stars.
 
Imprisoned in his robes, sweating,
Abraham's chest rested
on his son's face. His beard in the light wind.
The ram was chewing the grass,
with squinting eyes peering out at the distance--
the angel never came.


Mureed Barghouthy
 
Translated by Saadi Simawe and Ellen Doré Watson, and by
Carol Bardenstein, from the Arabic
 
                              An Everyday Scene
 
It's a soft winter day
               between echoes in the distance
               and the sound of drizzling rain
A room
               its broken window is transparent
               so that nothing separates the clouds above
               from the edges of the mat
The child's hand, with its five dimples
               lies gently now
               on the down-covered breast
He tries to suckle, between hunger and sleepiness
 
In the mother's eyes there is a celebratory pride
               and traces of weariness
Outside the window
               the everyday scene continued:
Young boys loading their slingshots
The sound of shouting, banners in the air,
Soldiers
               opening fire with a reckless thrill
Another boy falls martyred
               onto the pavement.
 
 
 
Shaul Knaz
 
                              There Are Those
 
There are those who know exactly
What kind of peace there should be,
And hold demonstrations.
There are those who know exactly
What kind of peace there shouldn't be
And hold demonstrations.
There are those who know e-x-a-c-t-l-y.
Peace doesn't exactly know
How many people are ready to accept it.
Peace is looking for people who are ready to accept it
Even if it isn't exactly...
 
 
Fadwa Tuqan
 
Translated by Saadi Simawe and Ellen Doré Watson from the Arabic
 
                              Between Incarnation And Emptiness
 
Yearning is a gazelle emerging from its hide-out.
It entices me across the dunes.
It takes me to the capital of self.
You follow along riding the horses of wind, rain, night, sun, and colour,
fused with the atoms of the universe.
You travel your road into my eye,
flowing into my veins.
As you step into my textures
your incarnation becomes complete
and I am you.
But when I reach for you
I touch only the crawling, icy pole
enfolded and empty with silence.
 
 
 
Yehuda Amichai
 
Translated by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld from the Hebrew 
 
                              And There Are Days
 
And there are days when everyone says, I was there
I'm ready to testify, I stood a few feet away from the accident,
from the bomb, the crucifixion, I almost got hit, almost got crucified.
I saw the faces of bride and groom under the chuppah and
               almost rejoiced.
When David lay with Bathsheba I was the voyeur,
I happened to be there on the roof fixing the pipes, taking down a flag.
With my own eyes I saw the Chanukah miracle in the Temple,
I saw General Allenby entering Jaffa Gate,
I saw God.
And then there are days when everything's an alibi:  wasn't there
               didn't hear
I heard the explosion only from a distance and I ran away, saw the
               smoke but
was reading a newspaper. I was staying in some other place.
I didn't see God, I've got witnesses.
And the God of Jerusalem is the eternal alibi God,
wasn't there didn't see didn't hear
was in some other place. Was some Place, some Other.
 
 
 
Anton Shammas
 
Translated by Robert Friend with Roger Tavor from the Arabic
 
               "from" Prisoner of Sleeping And Waking
 
I tell how the days passed over my face
like fragrance from a lemon tree,
and I am afraid that one of these days
words will fall from me
like calendar leaves, and that boys
will pick them up to make
tails for their kites, or stuffing
for holes in dreams.
I am afraid
that before the words pursuing me
catch up with me,
I shall die
and no one remember me.
 
How else explain this poem.
 
               *
 
I shall open a map of the world
to look for the village I lost
I shall search my pocket
for the grandfather I never knew,
for crumbs of stories, pleasant smells--
and cling to his neck like a butterfly.
Pendulum.
I shall breathe his love into my lungs
for safe-keeping.
If he has blue eyes,
they will make an amulet.
Pendulum.
I shall caress drowned altars
in my palms
and ask him to tinge my eyes
with the colour of wandering
and restore me to legend
in a mantle of gull-wings.
Pendulum.
I shall ask for a swan
so I can ride it
and visit every island
before I am reborn
in a place of my own choosing.
 
Dreams, dreams, I know them all.
 
How else explain this poem.
 
 
 Karen Alkalay-Gut
 
                              Live War
 
It is like the slapstick where two people are fighting behind the couch
and you see one person jump and dive and then the other pop up
then go down again, both with false-fierce faces and threatening arms.
But this time they are all pummeling something below the window we cannot
     see
And making V's for victory to the crowd outside the police station.
This could be my brother, my son, my husband down there
being beaten to death because he happened to lose his way.
By the time they throw him out to the street and ignite him
The face is unrecognizable, although he seems to be still alive.
That's the program for this morning. The afternoon 
is for retribution--smart bombs threaded into the windows
of the same station in Ramallah, and then the offices of Arafat in Gaza.
I change the station but the war is all there is, the war and the blame.
Run it through the video in reverse, go back far enough and we'll get that
     line
I remember from nursery: "It all started when he hit me back.'' 
But we're talking about real blood, real agony, and for every person killed
There is a whole hamula that will suffer--the rabbi's eight children 
who couldn't even bury their father in peace, the Palestinian father,
      hiding 
from the snipers with his son, mothers who will never forget seeing their
      children 
murdered live. I could go on forever. 
Instead, I turn off the television, wish
I could turn off the war with a flick of the switch.


Mahmoud Darwish
 
Translated by Saadi Simawe and Ellen Doré Watson from the Arabic
 
                              I see what I want
 
   1
I see what I want in the farm ... right now I see
braids of wheat combed by the wind, and I close my eyes
This mirage leads to Nihawand,
and this calm leads to lapis lazuli
 
   2
I see what I want in the sea ... right now I see
a rush of swans at sunset, and I close my eyes
This wandering leads to an Andalusia,
and this sail is a dove's prayer over me
 
   3
I see what I want in the night ... right now I see
the endings of this long life at one of the cities' gates
I will toss the pages of my log into the cafes at the dock and find a seat
for my absence aboard one of the ships
 
   4
I see what I want in the soul: the face of a stone
scratched by lightning--green, oh land, green is the land of my soul--
haven't I been a child playing at the edge of a well?
I'm still playing ... this space is my playground and the stone is my wind
 
   5
I see what I want in peace ... right now I see
a deer and grass and a stream of water ... and I close my eyes:
this deer is asleep on my arm
and the hunter asleep, too, near its sons, in a faraway place
 
   6
I see what I want in war ... right now I see
the arms of our ancestors squeezing a wellspring into green stone
And our fathers inherited the water, but did not bequeath it, and I close
               my eyes:
The land in my hands is the work of my hands
 
   7
I see what I want in prison: days of a flowering
that led from here to two strangers in me
seated in a garden--I close my eyes:
How spacious is the earth! How beautiful the earth from the eye
               of a needle
 
   8
I see what I want in lightning ... right now I see
farms bursting from their chains with vegetation--bravo!
The song of the walnut floats down, white above the villages' smoke
like doves ... doves we feed alongside our children
 
   9
I see what I want in love ... right now I see
horses making the plain dance, fifty guitars sighing
and a swarm of bees sucking wild mulberry, and I close my eyes
to see our shadow behind this homeless place
 
   10
I see what I want in death: I fall in love, and my chest opens
and a white unicorn jumps out and gallops over the clouds
soaring on endless gauze, swirling with eternal blue
So please do not stop my death, do not return me to a star of soil
 
   11
I see what I want in blood: right now I see the murdered,
his heart lit by the bullet, say to his murderer: from now on
               you remember
no one but me. I killed you without meaning to but from now on
you remember no one but me, nor can you endure spring flowers
 
  12
I see what I want in the theatre of the absurd: fiends in judges' robes, 
the emperor's hat, the masks of our time, the colour of old sky,
women who dance for the palace, the chaos of armies
Then I choose to forget everything, remember only the noise behind
               the curtain
 
   13
I see what I want in poetry: when poets died, we attended their funerals, 
buried them with flowers, returned safely to their poetry ...
now in the age of magazines, movies, and droning, we laugh—sprinkle
a handful of soil on their poems, come home to find them at our door
 
   14
I see at dawn what I want in the dawn ... right now I see
nations looking for bread in other nations' bread
Bread is what unravels us from the silk of drowsiness, from the cotton
               of our dreams
Is it from a grain of wheat that the dawn of life shines ... and the
               dawn of war?
 
   15
I see what I want in people: their desire
for yearning, their reluctance to go to work,
their urgency to come home ...
and their need for greetings in the morning
 
 
 
Logos would like to thank Norma Rinsler and Modern Poetry in Translation
(King's College London, www.kcl.ac.uk/mpt) for permission to reprint the poems of Rivka
Miriam, Mureed Barghouthy, Fadwa Tuqan, Yehuda Amichai, Anton Shammas, and
Mahmoud Darwish, whose poems in English translation originally appeared in
Modern Poetry in Translation, No. 14. Shaul Knaz's poem originally appeared
in the volume, Peace Talks (published in Givat Haviva). Poems and
translations by Karen Alkalay-Gut can found online at:
www.karenalkalay-gut.com.