<style>.post-40315 .entry-title{color: }</style>314
<style>.post-40315 .entry-title{color: }</style>314
<style>.post-40315 .entry-title{color: }</style>314
<style>.post-40315 .entry-title{color: }</style>314

Palestinian

By Ibrahim Nasrallah


Translated from the Arabic by Huda Fakhreddine.

I was silent and nothing came of it.
I spoke and nothing came of it.
I cursed, I apologized, and nothing came of it.
I was busy, I pretended to be busy…and nothing.
I sat, I walked, I ran.
I shivered and I warmed up. Nothing.
I was parched until I cracked. I drank until I drowned, and nothing came of it.
I crumbled like a fetus, like the father, the siblings, and the mother.
I was then gathered in a shroud made of old curtains,
and nothing came of it.
I stumbled more than I could stand but then I stood up,
and nothing came of it.
I prayed until, like a prophet, I became a verse in a holy book,
I rowed until I reached hell,
I beseeched and begged …and nothing.
I raged, I calmed, I remembered what was once distant,
and I forgot what was always close.
I befriended a monster, and I fought a monster.
I died young and sometimes survived.
In both times, I grew old from all that I had seen,
but nothing came of it.
I charged, I withdrew,
I fought the wind when it blew,
And reconciled with the waves when I rose and raged.
Among the horses my heart was a horse,
in the night my heart was a night,
and nothing came of it.
I ate, I hungered, I vomited, and nothing came of it.
I embraced my shadow, and I chastised it and then I chastised myself.
I greeted a woman lost in the streets.
I fought with a man and his smile nearby,
and with a bird that sang briefly in the garden,
and nothing came of it.

I closed all the windows in my house and opened them.
I wrote words on death when it is merciful,
death when it is futile,
death when it is hell,
death when it is the only way… at last,
death when it is gentle and light,
death when it is heavy and dark,
and nothing came of it.
I wrote about the river and the sea, about tomorrow and the sun,
and nothing came of it.
I wrote about oppression and depravity – purity too.
I slept without a bite of bread.
I dreamt without dreams.
I woke up not missing my hands or feet or reflection in the mirror
or the thing I call my soul.
I died and lived. I lit myself on fire. I put myself out with my own ashes,
and nothing came of it.

I am all these elements, O God: fire, earth, wind, and water.
Their fifth is a pain that blind songs can’t see, their sixth is this immense
loneliness, and their seventh, since my slaughter, is blood.
When I burned, I inhabited the letters of my free name like a butterfly:
P         A         L         E          S        T        I         N         E
When my roof was suddenly blown off into the sky and with it a wall, a window,
and the youngest of my children,
I gathered myself in the G and the A and the Z and the A.
I became GAZA.
A thousand warplanes circled and hit me. I collapsed and collapsed again,
and then rose in a scream. I called out, but nothing came of it.
Nothing came of it.
Nothing came of it.
I lost faith and believed, lost faith and believed again,
and lost faith and believed and…
nothing came of it,
nothing came of it.

And the filthy world asks me:
All this…what of it?



Translated from the Arabic by Huda Fakhreddine.

Huda Fakhreddine is associate professor of Arabic literature at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a writer, a translator, and the author of several scholarly books.

  • Ibrahim Nasrallah was born in 1954 to Palestinian parents who were uprooted from their land in 1948. He spent his childhood and youth in the Alwehdat Palestinian refugee camp in Amman, Jordan, and began his working life as a teacher in Saudi Arabia. He has been a full-time writer since 2006, publishing fourteen poetry collections and twenty-two novels. Four of his novels and a volume of poetry have been translated into English, including his novel Time of White Horses, which was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2009. He is also an artist and photographer and has had four solo exhibitions of his photography. He has won eight literary prizes, among them the prestigious Sultan Owais Literary Award for Poetry in 1997. In 2020, he became the first Arabic writer to be awarded the Katara Prize for Arabic Novels for the second time for his novel A Tank Under the Christmas Tree.

1 Comment

  1. Anne Habiby

    As a Palestinian watching from afar, nothing brought me closer to the reality than this soul shattering poem.

    Reply

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