Yousef el-Qedra
Selected Poems

Poems continued from Banipal 45 – Writers from Palestine, p 177


It’s been reported that a certain day,
which was enveloped in dim light
and from whose shoulders flowed
an ongoing sadness, passed normally,
ending with a sunset no one noticed.
Warm salty waves soaked a sandcastle,
leaving a dead fish on top of its dome 
that still showed the mark of a child’s fingers.
An eerie silence tickled a pallid twilight into color.

A drowsy tune felt its own drowsiness.
It slept on the wings of a gull who chanced by,
its shadow touching many shells.
Its imagination lamented its imaginings.

The old Arabs sang for their raging horses
and night had not yet arrived to introduce
a love that lost its name.  And the building
in the desert suddenly turned into a skyscraper.

So it was normal for that day to pass normally
and for its dim light to keep company
with a rose near an abandoned wall,
a rose that wept over the abandonment
it never got used to.  On the stairway
of the house were photos of martyrs,
their names written on them for the wind.
Their dreams visit the house when its mirrors smile.
One pulse can enflame the heart, while directions
pursue a journey without end.
These directions intersect an entire life span
that’s trapped inside a mirage.  Above it a bitter wind,
below it thirsty sand.  Its tale is paralyzed. 
When the possible enquires about it
probabilities respond in luminous unconsciousness.

The impossible falls, fluttering from the balcony
of its dream.  It seizes its chance to gaze
hypocritically before its own attraction.
Gravity is confused and its secret shaken
by the beauty of an apple clinging to its tree.
In a picture that a transient takes
and offers to a woman passing by,
life is all about crossing and passing.

That was a day, and these are days.
They all occur under changing skies.
They even pass without anyone objecting,
not even ants. The winter is bitterly cold.
Winter stings the cheek of a princess waiting
at a doorway for her prince to return from a war that sedition created. 
And Nature is beautiful because
God has drawn it in nature’s own eyes.

Nature’s eyes are flowing with worry –
There’s a bangle on its ankle. 
The bangle’s tinnkling makes a star dance
and that star circles a sad moon.

That day ventured onto intolerable paths.
It created by an ancient procrastination. 
Yet no boon companion behind the cloudy window
tallies the fears or wishes of transients
who are accused of imagining too much. 
The day circles within its circles, searching
for a name, yet it has no name in a city
that circles around its own emptiness.
The day saw the city bathing in fragrant steam,
went crazy, and forgot its wings inside the fire box.
This fire would induce extinction in the day’s heart
were it not for the flame made by a waking dream.

The day has set an appointment with its hours.
They are loyal and their details give rise to the seasons.
They are cowardly, and suns set toward them
extinguished by a horror that defies explanation. 
Loyal but cowardly, their minutes resemble their mother.
The color of their speech is usually grey and tired
and their gait annoys whoever isn’t in love with them.
Minutes get freed from the surrounding oppression
and absences hang from the ceiling of the passage.
The sky is a vine with no grapes that produces
no wine. The sky lacks forgiveness that could lead
to paradise. May God help his servants. 
But they fight their brothers with no mercy or respect
for that lonely rose crying near the wall. 

The day’s breathing is quiet, regular,
and there’s chaos in the veins of his soul. 
An artist’s hand felt it raising the hearts of young
women whom he had captured in a time gone by.
They rose dancing in the form of a dream
that repeats itself in the imagination
of a curtain that flutters whenever a soft breeze
touches the flame of a candle dreaming of . . .

Day, you are a memory that sleeps a long time.
Although his breaths sounded drowsy and tight,
he stayed calm and kept two tears and a sigh. 
They also smiled and hummed.  The day said
(or sang): I sing.  The day sang with voiceless breathing.
The day sang about days that wished they could
enter the pages of history as numbers and events.
But he didn’t like history, numbers, or events,
nor would he ever like them.  So the day sang
as a neutral day, muted – a day with a corner
among his seconds for abbreviated hope.

Translated by Yasmin Snounu, Edward Morin, and Yasser Tabbaa

There Is . . .

There is a pain that contemplates talking
and from which misgivings and complaints drip. 
There is a complaint submitted to
a night filledwith questions
that are raising flags in silence.
And there is a misgiving that is late
for its lesson in self-expression
while his trembling makes the soul go blind
and calcifies the pulse in its weaving
that never ceases. There is a lost trust
on which the feet of flimsy justifications
have trampled.  There are worries and illusions
that manage life, and deplete the days
of their meanings.  There are lies that get
bigger through the journey of defending
steps to the dream and freedom.
There are eyes that can’t see anything
except what deforms their beauty.
There is a tearing of which some
others only want more.

There is screaming that doesn’t know what
he is saying.  There is distraction
in the labyrinths of exodus
and stories. There is a wise silence
that is about to paralyze its brain
as it tries to create some balance.

The sea was in front of me
bathing in its naked sunset
A calm wind was floating your scarf
and I envied that wind and even the sand
when you stuck your feet into it
Waves were dancing in your eyes and there was
dizzying music reeling under white light
He used to go to the forest of speech,
like an inverted subject of a sentence,

exhausted as a sidewalk in an abandoned city,
in countries situated between two wars.
His pulse stammers and his voice ambles in the veins
of places as a tourist might during fluid epochs.
The atmosphere besieges his heart and he sculpts
a sky in his room’s wall, from which a tree is hanging.

– Has your shadow left you so that
            you have lost your directions,
            a question and a questioner flashed.

– No! I left my shadow so I can be free
            and can liberate my name from its lust.
His cigarette, which had burned out,
merely indicated his breathing.
But it slept in a sleepy, doubtful ashtray.
The streets were circling his waist
and his hands were soaked in a woman’s waist;
that woman was gripping his heart.
Cruelty teaches his steps the rhythms
taking place in a great darkness
during the beginning of his night,
while intense longing invades him
when yet unnamed perfumes reach his nose.
He is calmed by waves that dream and spin
a melody that does not come again.

Translated by Edward Morin, Yasmin Snounu, and George Khoury


Near the stories laden with tears and honey coated with anise,
below a sleepy light that reveals creation as swinging images,
in front of a glass of ice that croaks as it melts,
there . . . on that day when a story evaporated into air,
the air disguised itself in a costume of forgetfulness.
At that moment I knew that my beloved,
made of silence and sadness, is inhabited by a passion
shining from her eyes, and these make my toes tremble
and this cup of coffee dance in my hands.

Likewise, her breasts are two soft torches,
which grow hard when I whisper kisses near them.
Her voice continues slowly caressing
my name while my sweat dissolves deaths
that distance has created on her waist.
Contemplating her nudity, I make my language naked
and confuse her breaths that imploringly rise and sleep
according to the rhythm of her senses.
Astonished, I embroidered her desires onto a body of mist.
I raged on the threshold of the door for deferred entrance.

Near the country that sees with one eye,
its sky bends to take a commemorative photo. 
There nightmares shake the heart on stairs of old cactus villages. 
Before time thrust its long tongue at us and our dreams,
here when I held my daughter’s hand and smiled into her pure eyes,
when I saw my departure conducting me to separation,
my beloved married me to a passing cloud
that bleeds tension from its left leg
muting an explosion that tore what her heart had designed
in nights of song and passionate sighs
falling under a whip that makes no sound.

O God . . . did you forget me inside this well until I float? 

Who told you that by the time she had seen me I was saved?

or that, as soon as she wore me among her soul’s prayers, I slept?

Translated by Edward Morin, Yasmin Snounu, and George Khoury

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