The Passport

They don't recognize me in the shadows
That suck my color in this passport.
To them my wound is a showroom
For a tourist who passionately collects pictures.
They don't recognize me. Don't leave
The palm of my hand without a sun
Because the trees
Know me...
The spinning mills of rain know me.
Don't leave me mummified like the moon!

The birds follow
The palm of my hand to the distant airport,
And all the wheat fields,
All the prisons,
All the pale sepulchers,
All the barbed boundaries,
All the waving handkerchiefs,
All the dark eyes,
All the eyes
Are with me, but the masters
Drop them from this passport!

Is it my name that brings dishonor? Or is it
My love for the land I raised in my hands?
Today Job cries the sky's fill:
Don't make me a lesson twice!

True masters! Honorable prophets!
Don't ask the trees about their names.
Don't ask the wadis about their mothers.
From my forehead gushes the sword of light
And from my fingers flow rivers.
The heart of every man is my nationality;
So rid me of this passport.

Victim #18

The olive grove was once green;
It was! And the sky was
A blue forest; it was!
What has changed it tonight?

They quietly stopped our truck
at the curve of the road
and quietly turned us East.

My heart was once a blue sparrow;
It was! And your handkerchiefs
Were all white, my beloved.
What has soiled them tonight?
I don't understand.

They quietly stopped our truck
and quietly turned us East.

For you I have everything:
Both shade and light
And a wedding ring
And even an orchard of fig trees.

And tonight
I'll come through the window
And bring you jasmine.
Don't blame me if I'm late;
They always stop me on the way.

They quietly stopped our truck
and quietly turned us East.

The olive grove was always green;
It was, my beloved.
But tonight
The blood of fifty victims1
Has turned it into a red pool.
Please don't blame me
If I can't come;
They've murdered me, too.

From: A Lover from Palestine

Yesterday I saw you at the harbor;
You were a lonely voyager, without provisions.
I ran to you like an orphan
Asking the wisdom of our fathers:
"Why does the green orange grove -
Dragged to prison and port,
And in spite of its travels,
In spite of the scent of salt and longing -
Why does it always remain green?"
And I wrote in my diary:
"I love the orange, but hate the harbor."
I stood at the harbor
And watched the world with eyes of winter.
Only the orange peel is ours.
Behind me was the desert.
I saw you on briar-covered mountains;
You were a shepherdess without sheep,
Pursued among the ruins.
You were my garden
When I was away from home.
I would knock on the door, my heart,
For on my heart
The doors and windows, cement and stones are laid.

I have seen you in wells of water
And in granaries, broken.
I have seen you in nightclubs waiting on tables.
I have seen you in rays of tears and wounds.
You are a pure breath of life;
You are the voice of my lips;
You are water... You are fire.

I have seen you at the mouth of the cave,
Drying your orphan rags on a rope.
I have seen you in stores and streets,
In stables and sunsets.
I have seen you in songs of orphans and wretches.
I have seen you in salt and sand.
Your beauty was of earth, children and jasmine.
I vow
To weave a veil from my eyelashes
And embroider it with verses for your eyes
And with a name which,
When watered with a heart
That was melted with your love,
Would make trees grow green again.
I will write a sentence dearer than martyrs and kisses:
"Palestinian she was and still is!"

One stormy night I opened the window
And saw a mutilated moon.
I told the night: "Be gone
Beyond the fence of darkness!
I have an appointment with light and words."
You are my virginal garden
As long as our songs
Are swords when we draw them.
You are faithful as the seed
As long as our songs
Nourish the land...
You are a palm tree in the mind,
Felled by neither wind nor woodsman's axe.
Your braids have been spared
By beasts of desert and woods.

But I am the exile.
Seal me with your eyes.
Take me wherever you are -
Take me whatever you are.
Restore to me the color of face
And the warmth of body,
The light of heart and eye,
The salt of bread and rhythm,
The taste of earth... the Motherland.
Shield me with your eyes.
Take me as a relic from the mansion of sorrow;
Take me as a verse from my tragedy;
Take me as a toy, a brick from the house
So that our children will remember to return.

Her eyes are Palestinian;
Her name is Palestinian;
Her dreams and sorrows;
Her veil, her feet and body;
Her words and silence are Palestinian;
Her birth... her death.

From Splinters of Bone. Translated from the Arabic by B.M. Bennani. New York: The Greenfield Review Press, 1974.