Have You Found the Page Turned?

We came to tell you that six years of absence are enough. Had you been prepared for longer? We could do nothing but ask.
Here we stand in your doorway; we find our ache unabated, unchanged; its flame unquenched - and time has not healed the wounds.
Was the page turned? Is that why you did not heed our longing? Or had you taken your time to forget and were let down by the distances? How many light years will you travel and have you ascertained that disconnection from Earth gives you the glow of the everlasting?
Forgive us our longing if it intensifies. Let there be a limit to your forgetting. We are but an ember buffeted by the wind, before and after the morning. We wait for you at the table and during evening gatherings. Our stares linger on your little wardrobe and we return - without a word - everything there. Have you embraced our waiting as we have embraced your bullet-pierced jeans?
Your belongings have their own special mercy: it comes expected with every new movement, with every event tasting of freshness. So how do you come?
The page is turned and the picture so remote? …Will you open the page so that we can be certain that your hand touches our souls?


A Tableau and a Frame

Do you reckon we lost you in the midst of funerals that have become our daily news and the salt of our tears? And have you merged with the bleeding night and the morning that heralds a final departure? Each year, for seven years, we used to sit like today around a new candle that lights its surroundings and expires when its time is up. The table misses your presence, your smile and your smell, and a stride to the heart starts always with a touch … We search for a tale here or there - in a corner or near a stove or in the silence of a book. And do you know? You have not gone as far as we used to think, and we do not admit that age tinges the face with years. Is there anyone who will talk to us more than you or linger in the evenings to the last moment before sleep?
This then is the tableau and the final frame: there it will stay in its place without the admission of the ravages of time. The gaze of the eyes by a bullet do not bleed, and the warmth of longing vanquishes the winter cold.
In the tableau, you are there. You are in the tableau and the frame is a river that runs in silence. You stand oblivious of little Ibrahim who has taken possession of your toys, or Marwa who is still reading the song although she has grown a little, and Marwa has perplexed my heart and asks about you. She asks where you sleep and asks whether you pray or sing.
Who will answer the question?
And who will wipe the loss from her soul?
But your wardrobe has gone back to the way it was and Marwa hid the song for the new year...
Because your love is greater than ours, you march towards a light that words cannot perceive. Is there anything more to say?... Perhaps you did not mind the bullets that fell on the cemetery. Perhaps you thought that they wanted to kill once again? Perhaps you thought that martyrs come out again looking for freedom and the coveted stride to the end of the road. We love you as you are, swaddled in songs. We heard your footsteps through the frame: what draining knocks! And the windows have all gone silent.


Have You Opened the Page of Absence?

We ask you if you have opened the page of absence after eight years. And we long to tell you that we open it in the morning with the call that lights up the face and in the evening when the night departs to the table of darkness…No need for light because the light comes from there. You sit on a distant porch on the roof of the world, unconcerned about the page of absence. Why don't you open it to read its small print? Why don't you climb up the road with a book in your hand to find the page on which the faces of loved ones who are still asking how you sing your last songs are drawn. What voice will cut loose the long string of longing between the Earth and the stars?
Do not grieve because we have not kept up with the years as they recede. Have you grown taller? And have you passed by people as they drink what they like or don't like to lighten the burden of life?! And on the page you will read our unending tales. Only madness drove us to celebrate your 24th birthday. The cake was as big as the man who will not come. Nobody ate from it as though it were a gift to silence. And we were at a loss: Were the candles for the time of departure or for the time of birth? And we said, "Let it be the candle zero." But the mystery of the scene did not dissipate except with a scent still persisting on the bloodied blue jeans. Tell it to disappear for you need it. Tell it that the living hang on to the scent of longing………….
He asks about the road, he who was here, and about a little girl sickened by waiting and has lost patience. She needs some mawal (songs) and a soothing voice to calm her:
I do not know where this traveling will end/ Earth and seas - or stars are these?


The Rosebush Thorns Are Getting Sparse

Between your birthday and the day of the prolonged travel, the distances change for the memory and the eye. We seek refuge in you, in the moment of searing longing, for we find no protection except in you. Do you accept to ask and answer the questions? Thus we find the page turned once again and there are no letters on it to read, to conjecture how time has changed. Where have you arrived and how have you sung to the birds that come to you from every corner of the homeland? Have you cried for us or have you sensed us in the silence and whispers calling upon you…. Perhaps we allude to your twenty-five years and ponder where to now? And we say between waking and sleep: Here he is passing; he has grown taller and fuller. In a while, he will enter with his smile and greet us and sit near his old wardrobe and look for his clothes, his smell and his touch, because he left them all here and went. And will the man be without clothes and smell and touch? And is one aware of travel? But who is riding the horse: prodding the stirrups in sleep, with the feet in space? Mercy has many doors, O beloved! We have entered them all in the evenings when sensibilities overflow and the night weaves its last threads in the cloth that does not age… And mercy has windows-we think we stand at their sills at the hint of a call… Give us whatever you wish of news and songs and the imposing distance of space. You are ever the same for us and the voice is not masked by the news: here he stood in front of the mirror and here he wandered in and thought about a woman - he wanted her to accompany him to an evening of flight and clouds and sleep. And here he stopped a while in order to return… And we still ask: What will the young man do at twenty-five?... A thousand apologies if we ever answer on your behalf because we give to the voice its old flood back. The almond tree has not changed and sends you greetings, and the rosebush thorns have not dried, and the water well awaits you to draw a pail and to splash it, whichever way you want, on the vine or the apple tree or little Ibrahim. He says he misses you and searches in the photo for your eyes and your languid eyelids. And sometimes he exaggerates the blame and you tell him: You have scared us. But now he knows the majesty of silence… He is a spitting image of you and he realizes that you have given him what he can never give back to you. And believe us when we tell you, You have given us a lot with your absence and that is why you have never left.

Translated from Arabic by the Palestine-Israel Journal.