Bats on my windows
suck in my words
Bats at the entrance to my house
behind newspapers, in corners
trail my footsteps,
observing every movement of my head

From the back of the chair, bats watch me
They trail me in the streets
watching my eyes pause
on books, on young girls’ legs . . .
they watch and watch

On my neighbor’s balcony, bats,
and electronic gadgets hidden in the walls
Now bats are on the verge
of suicide
I am digging a road to daylight.

— Samih al-Qasim

Palestinian rights activist and poet Samih al-Qasim was born in 1939, although he sometimes claimed to have been born in 1948, when his village in Galilee was bombed by the Israeli army. As an adult, he lived in Haifa, where he joined the Israeli Communist Party in 1967. His poetry was often censored by Israeli military (his second book, Songs of Alleys, 1965, was full of empty pages). At the beginning of the Six-Day War in 1967, he was sent to al-Damoun prison. He was jailed several more times for his pro-Palestinian activism.

[Research note: Roger Hardy, “Palestinian Writers in Israel,” Boston Review (December 1982); and Liam Brown, “Samih al-Qasim and the language of revolution,” Middle East Eye (May 13, 2014)].