Gaza-based poet Manal Miqdad wrote the following poem after a particularly violent and sleepless night in Gaza during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. Israeli poet Almog Behar penned a response, dedicated to Miqdad.
Burned books from the collection of Gaza poet Othman Hussein (photo: Maysoon Hussein)
After a night full of missiles, crying and fear, the sheet of the sky opens its heart to the light
By Manal Miqdad (translated from Arabic by Sam Carlshamre and Chana Morgenstern)
I speak my words unto God, O Gaza!
After a night full of missiles, crying and fear, the sheet of the sky opens its heart to the light. But how can we wish you good morning, O Gaza? Bursting with hope, I say: maybe it is a good morning, my Gaza, after the wounds have adorned your face, and weariness has overtaken your legs. Perhaps it so, though the killing has robbed you of the right to your life and livelihood, perhaps it is so.
Paint your evening sky with the faces of the children and the holy dead; fill your throat with prayer and your spirit with tranquility.
As the reconnaissance airplanes eat your head, a shell flies by that could fell you, though your spirit has already fallen. You shatter, screaming, sobbing like mad, but a revolutionary song interrupts your cries, filling you with fervor and commitment, comforting you. Oh Gaza, will you eradicate your fears with songs? Will you infuse us, the half-dead, with life?
The shell that scared you, or didn’t scare you, that killed one of your friends or your neighbors or relatives, and injured many, deposited in you scenes of blood, scattered bodies, the wretchedness of families, their choked spirits, their weeping, and a hopelessness that made us turn to God and Medina to hasten our salvation.
O God, the girl who turned into a butterfly and fluttered to the sky, how long must she wait to be concealed in her mother’s embrace? How will the boy bear it, he who kissed his family and saw them disappear into the edges of the clouds?
My breast is crammed full, choking, while I fill my friends’ spirits with life. From their worries I weave tapestries to infuse their pallid skin with color. This pain uproots something of the anxiety of the spirit, and in its presence, the appointed hour approaches. No memory except the dim roads, and the whisper of death as it rises in my breast!
Creator of the world, are you receiving my letters? Do you hear my suppressed cry? Do you understand my weakness, how few my options are? Why won’t you believe me when I lay down my plea before you: I do not want war, I do not want my life to end!
Read this poem in Hebrew on Local Call.
A woman awaits a bombing
By Almog Behar (translated from Hebrew by Chana Morgenstern)
For Manal Miqdad
From her nightly resting place, during the long journey to sleep
she considers the library of books she’s collected
the travel and nature books should really go
to her good friend from class, whose been dreaming to travel next summer,
through rivers and deserts, the children’s books that remain on the shelf
should go to the orphanage born of the war, the diaries
her father should burn, if they aren’t destroyed in the bombing
and she should ask the neighbors too, the English books
she bought but hasn’t read she wills to her cousin, who confided in her his dream
to leave, the borrowed books can stay with her friends
if they promise not to fold the pages or write in the margins, and choose someone
to leave them to in case of another explosion.
behold her bed; it is not surrounded by heroic men, only fear in the night.
the books remain silent, they don’t announce to whom they wish to be willed
and she prays that tonight she will fall into a dreamless sleep.
undisturbed by explosions, undisturbed by the games of the neighbor’s kids
whose whole bellies are fright