Saturday, May 12, 2018



Also the House

Near the camp was a river
and in our house were absentees and hands
that will one day wake us in vain

I had just turned seven
while he was sitting in the shade
ironing his clothes
the blue jacket sagging over his shoulders

I paid no attention to the road
or the three steps
and didn't notice the carpet

I don't remember who was it that said
to me or to another
"When you grow up poetry will become your house"

The dust that eats the memories
always distances those folks

yet their chairs appear from afar,
from behind the hills and over the houses,
to hang in an air of summer and holm oak,
those shaded chairs that reach the  heart
on shoulders topped
with five flowers

Which flowers are speech
which flowers are silence?

And I can't remember
whether it was my uncle who stood at the door,
whether we had palm and lotus trees
in our house in Karameh,
whether my mother
who gave birth to me on the shelf
was folding our clothes behind our father's back
so he could sleep

The watchdogs used to cry from the heat,
and poetry, Husseini of Jerusalem,
and Khidr the mystic were all in our house
as was my uncle who came from a pond
within Hebron's walls

Twenty years would pass before a photo could tell us
we have grown older
and that's that

My father used to discompose his friends
with his days, and women
with the thread of seduction in his voice
as he would sprinkle chatter in their rivers
while walking about here or there with a lilt,
he'd let his days fall off him
and let others gather them as he walked
on gold that came only for him

And I can't remember
in our courtyard there were holm oaks,
a fountain, a tiled floor by a huge door,
we were confused and in a hurry

The closet that faced us in the second room
had a mirror
the mirror we now seek

And my father was standing alone in the hall that led
the stairs to the roof
thanking his days
or preparing for Wednesday's nap
or Thursday's morning
as he left, among the things he'd leave, the water can
full of water
while around his chairs our Saturdays rose

My father didn't want too much from life:
a house, five boys
who don't mess with his papers,
which were already chaos,
and two girls
so that braids could float all around the house

Ghassan Zaqtan
The Silence That Remains
selected poems
translated by Fady Joudah
Copper Canyon, 2017