End of a Talk with a Jailer

From the narrow window of my small cell,
I see trees that are smiling at me
and rooftops crowded with my family.
And windows weeping and praying for me.
From the narrow window of my small cell -
I can see your big cell!


The day I'm killed
my killer will find
tickets in my pockets:
One to peace,
one to fields and the rain,
and one
to humanity's conscience.

I beg you - please don't waste them.
I beg you, you who kill me: Go.

From Sadder Than Water

Sadder than water,
in death's wonder
you've distanced yourself from this land.
Sadder than water
and stronger by far than the wind,
longing for a moment to drowse,
alone. And crowded by millions
behind their darkened windows.


You distanced yourself from yourself.
So that you might remain
on the land.
You will remain.
(People were useless … the land was useless
but you'll dwell on.)
And in the land there is nothing,
nothing but you
and what remained of time's struggles
after the miserable seasons' removal …


You were born, your cradle the land of religions.
The religions' cradle is your land.
Your cradle and grave, but you
remain in the land. The wind will scatter your pollen
across the tree of God. Your soul will dwell, a bird
migrating in summer,
in winter returning to die a new death.
And the tear gas canisters exploding
will lend your coming dance its rhythm
so at the critical moment you'll rise up,
sadder than water
and stronger than the end …


The ancient singers are yours. The deserts.
The secret of conquests - they're for your name,
and the embers of apprehension
under the cinders.
You ushered new eras in with a dream.
You strove with stars and the art of gardens,
mastered the theology of conflagration,
toying with your death:
the respirator is free,
the blood's flow finds what it seeks,
and you were convinced
that you were a new beginning, which would not end,
which would not end … and the grip around your
throat grows tight,
and does not end. The new cracks in the ceiling widen,
the walls of your home know
the faces of shells by heart.
And you stand in the doorway of the will,
your voice trickling, your silence bleeding,
extracting the bullets from the family portraits,
following the missiles' path
into the heart of your household things
counting the holes from bombs' shrapnel
within the body of the sleeping girl -
kissing the wax of her soft fingers
at the edge of the bier.
How can you mold the elegies' madness?
How can you gather the dates of your dead
along the homeland's misty roads?
Or take into your arms
the body of your sleeping girl?


Sadder than water
and clearer than the summer sun.
But the ripeness of the spikes of wheat
chooses its appointed time, after the barren seasons.
Therefore plead for a loaf of bread
from your local relief agency -
forget the rest of your meal for a while.
Clear up your appraisal: day by day.
Month by month. And year by year.
Make clear the sudden atmosphere
before the explosion of your call.
You are the caller and you are the called.
You went up in flames. Were extinguished. Began.
You retreated. And discovered the land.
And then you lost it.
Sadder than water.

From Sadder Than Water: New & Selected Poems by Samih al-Qasim, translated by Nazih Kassis. Reprinted with the author's permission.