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Elegy for Imm ‘Ali1

Don’t go away! 
Across the distances you kindle our fires, 
deliver joy, ignite our dreams 
Leaving was never your style; you were always 
about to arrive 
Now the flower vendors close their shops 
under the blitz, and 
darkness prepares to depart 
This city you loved, 
crowded with history, iron, and anger, 
braids her joy with fatigue

and threatens to fall into oblivion 
She huddles over its newborn dawn 
planting stars in that hopeful sphere, 
and repressing her tears in the songs 
How could you leave us 
with no goodbyes? 
You, who always repressed your tears 
from you I learned how basil grows 
how the sky descends 
to rest in your arms 
You wiped the sorrow away from 
its brow! 
From you I learned about how the heart can be 
a live coal, a burning flower 
Now the dignity of your great death 
opens up wounds 
that even trees bleed, 
and poems.

Source: Anthology of Modern Palestinian Literature. Poem translated by May Jayyousi and Naomi Shihab Nye, p 280-281.

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1 Imm ‘Ali was a Palestinian woman, active in the resistance movement, and was killed.


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