Bats

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)].

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I Come From There

I come from there and I have memories
Born as mortals are, I have a mother
And a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends,
And a prison cell with a cold window.
Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,
I have my own view,
And an extra blade of grass.
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,
And the bounty of birds,
And the immortal olive tree.
I walked this land before the swords
Turned its living body into a laden table.
I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother
When the sky weeps for her mother.
And I weep to make myself known
To a returning cloud.
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood
So that I could break the rule.
I learnt all the words and broke them up
To make a single word: Homeland….

— Mahmoud Darwish

The tomb of Mahmoud Darwish, Ramallah, West BankRawan Nassrallah / CC BY-SA 3.0

The tomb of Mahmoud Darwish,
Ramallah, West Bank
Rawan Nassrallah / CC BY-SA 3.0

Poet-activist Mahmoud Darwish grew up a “present-absent alien” (internal refugee) in the Palestine after his family home and village were destroyed in the war(s) of 1948. An increasingly outspoken critic of the Israeli government, he was arrested and ultimately placed under house arrest in the 1960s when his poem “ID (Identity) Card” was set to music as a protest anthem. He left the Palestine in 1970 and joined the PLO in 1973; he was subsequently banned from returning to the region. He lived in exile for 26 years, returning to the West Bank only in 1996.

Tickets

The day I’m killed
my killer will find
tickets in my pockets:
One to peace,
one to fields and the rain,
and one
to humanity’s conscience.

I beg you — please don’t waste them.
I beg you, you who kill me: Go.

— Samih al-Qasim
(Trans. by Nazih Kassis)

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: This poem comes from Samih al-Qasim’s 2005 collection, Sadder Than Water, which draws on earlier work. See also: 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).].

Resist, My People, Resist Them

Resist, my people, resist them.
In Jerusalem, I dressed my wounds and breathed my sorrows
And carried the soul in my palm
For an Arab Palestine.
I will not succumb to the “peaceful solution,”
Never lower my flags
Until I evict them from my land.
I cast them aside for a coming time.
Resist, my people, resist them.
Resist the settler’s robbery
And follow the caravan of martyrs.
Shred the disgraceful constitution
Which imposed degradation and humiliation
And deterred us from restoring justice.
They burned blameless children;
As for Hadil, they sniped her in public,
Killed her in broad daylight.
Resist, my people, resist them.
Resist the colonialist’s onslaught.
Pay no mind to his agents among us
Who chain us with the peaceful illusion.
Do not fear doubtful tongues;
The truth in your heart is stronger,
As long as you resist in a land
That has lived through raids and victory.
So Ali called from his grave:
Resist, my rebellious people.
Write me as prose on the agarwood;
My remains have you as a response.
Resist, my people, resist them.
Resist, my people, resist them.

— Dareen Tatour
(Trans. by Tariq al Haydar)

On October 3, 2015, Palestinian-Israeli poet Dareen Tatour posted “Resist, My People, Resist Them” to YouTube. On October 11th, she was arrested and charged with the intent to incite violence and supporting a terrorist organization. After three months in prison, she was placed under house arrest in Tel Aviv.