Two Poems from Palestine

translated by Omnia Amin
A photograph of two men, smiling at the camera, standing behind a table full of freshly baked bread
Motaz Azaiza / Courtesy of the artist

My Sixteen-Year-Old Mother

What is my eightysomething mother doing under these conditions?
She watches the situation behind the glass
Once the rain stops, she goes out
in her plastic slippers
with her shawl around her shoulders
and her dress belted at the waist
like a sixteen-year-old
chasing the rain
the leaves
and plastic bags filled with air
that the wind will burst
her ten blue fingers
making a beautiful dance in the drizzle
What is my ninetysomething father doing under these conditions?
He is under the covers wondering:
What is the use of getting out of bed
in these conditions
if I cannot be a young man in his twenties?
if I don’t sweep the water away from the well
and let it pass through the crevices
to water the wounds
and the thirsty plants?
What can I do under these conditions?
I forge a word
to hammer into the ground of my loneliness
so the winds don’t blow away
the tent of life
above my head
and I think of my sixteen-year-old mother
who is still playing outside, I call out to her:
Come back home, daughter
and I think of my twentysomething father
who tarries to tend his wounds so I embrace him:
stitch what wounds you can
lest blood flow from your palms
You are still young
life lies before you.

And I think of you:
What are you doing under these conditions?
You will calmly answer in a tone
that disturbs one’s sleep:
I am doing nothing.


Photo Studio

I fear new places
unfamiliar streets
a new spoon
first seeing the entire scene or part of it
crossing to the café
So I turn the other way
and firmly lock the door
Feels like I know the smith
whose hand twisted the metal like a piece of cloth
giving a slight disturbance in its width
I fear the words I fling
making me more like a soldier
a sharpshooter
at the breast of loneliness
at the eye of ugliness
around the head of love
and at insects on flowers
In the wide abyss
into which I stretch my hand
to touch yours
More than anything, I fear for you
so I close my eyes
on your image
lest you escape
from the photo studio
of my imagination

Translations from the Arabic

Ahlam Bsharat is a Palestinian novelist, poet, children’s author, and teacher of creative writing. She is a prominent and highly regarded author in the Arab world and internationally. Her books have been included in IBBY lists, shortlisted for the Palestine Book Award (UK), and finalists for the Etisalat Award for Children’s Literature (UAE).

Omnia Amin earned her PhD in modern and contemporary English literature from Queen Mary University of London. She is an author, translator, and professor at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Zayed University in Dubai, UAE.