Palestinian author Ahlam Bsharat posted this untitled poem two days ago, which was translated to English by poet Zeina Hashem Beck and appears here with permission:

*

By Ahlam Bsharat

Translated by Zeina Hashem Beck

I saw a dead road on the road

& left it there

no one taught me

how to lift a dead road

from the ground

or how to hold

a building of fourteen floors

trembling.

*

I’m afraid of calling my scared friends

because I don’t know

what last word

I must say to them

in any case, it won’t be:

rest assured

*

I write about a fish that survived the war

it’s easy to write:

the fish has survived the war

*

I share a photo of the terrified

nameless cat

this is good:

to be without a name

so death won’t call you

*

My friends tell me about a cat named Cow

yes, I needed to hear the word cow

in the midst of this war:

for the milk has dried from my heart

after all this terror

*

I watched a video of a Gazan child

carrying a cat with two names

Batman &

Panda:

to have two names

is very good

*

when death calls you, my friend,

by one of them

run with the other

*

when death calls you, cat, saying:

Batman,

*

run fast,

for you are Panda

your name is Panda

& the occupation won’t be able

to kill Panda the cat

*

Ahlam Bsharat is a Palestinian writer who grew up in a village in Northern Palestine. She completed her Master’s Degree in Arabic Literature at An-Najah National University in Nablus. Besides poetry, picture books, short stories, novels, and memoirs, she has written a number of television and radio scripts. Her books have received many awards and recommendations. Ismee Alharakee Farasha (translated into the English as Code Name: Butterfly) was included in the IBBY Honor List for 2012, a biennial selection of outstanding, recently published books from more than seventy countries. Ismee Alharakee Farasha and Ashjaar lil-Naas al-Ghaa’ibeen (translated into English as Trees for the Absentees) were both runners up for the Etisalat Award For Children’s Arabic Literature in 2013. Code Name: Butterfly was shortlisted for the UK-based Palestine Book Awards in 2017. Bsharat also has a story in the recent collection, The Book of Ramallah, ed. Maya Abu Alhayyat.

Zeina Hashem Beck is a Lebanese poet. Her third full-length poetry collection, O, is forthcoming from Penguin Books in Summer 2022. Her collection Louder than Hearts won the 2016 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize. She’s also the author of 3arabi Song, winner of the 2016 Rattle Chapbook prize, There Was and How Much There Was, a 2016 Laureate’s Choice selected by Carol Ann Duffy, and To Live in Autumn, winner of the 2013 Backwaters Prize. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Poetry, Ploughshares, World Literature Today, The Southeast Review, The Adroit Journal, Triquarterly, the Academy of American Poets, and elsewhere. Zeina’s invented The Duet, a bilingual poetic form where English and Arabic exist separately and in relationship to each other. Her poem “Maqam” won Poetry Magazine’s 2017 Frederick Bock Prize.

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