In the Refugee Camp

The huts were of mud and hay,
their thin roofs feared the rain,
and walls slouched like humbled men.
The streets were laid out in a grid,
as in New York,
but without the dignity of names
or asphalt. Dust reigned.
Women grew pale
chickens and children
feeding them fables from the lost land.
And a madman sawed the minaret
where a melodious voice
cried for help on behalf of the believers.

Of course he gazed at the sky
on clear nights,
at stars drizzling
soft grains of light,
at the moon’s deliberate face,
at the good angel wrapped in purple air.
He had no ladder
and nothing from heaven fell
in his crescent hands.

Ah, how he cursed Adam and Eve
and the ones who made them refugees.

Sharif Elmusa

This poem originally appeared in Poetry East 23/24 (Fall 1987).

Children Bearing Rocks

With mere rocks in their hands,
they stun the world
and come to us like good tidings.
They burst with anger and love, defy, fall
while we remain a herd of polar bears:
a body armored against weather.

Like mussels we sit in cafes,
one hunts for a business venture
one for another billion
and a fourth wife
and breasts polished by civilization.
One stalks London for a lofty mansion
one traffics in arms
one seeks revenge in nightclubs
one plots for a throne, a private army,
and a princedom.

Ah, generation of betrayal,
of surrogate and indecent men,
generation of leftovers, we’ll be swept away —
never mind the slow pace of history —
by children bearing rocks.

Nizar Qabbani

(Translated by Sharif Elmusa. This poem was first published in al-Qabas, December 20, 1987.)

How to cite this article:

Sharif Elmusa, Nizar Qabbani "Two Poems About Palestine," Middle East Report 152 (May/June 1988).

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