Lit & Found: Ahlam Bsharat’s ‘Gold Teeth,’ ‘I Am Watermelon, I Am Lamb,’ & ‘Skin Mole’

Fady Joudah has translated three new works by the vibrant Palestinian poet, short-story writer, and children’s-book author Ahlam Bsharat.

Gold Teeth,” published at Guernica, captures the hungers of childhood. It opens with “One question of childhood: why / do some people have gold teeth?” and searches mouth to mouth for these treasures:

I used to wait for others to talk or laugh,
for their lips to part,
I used to search for gold in oral caves.

The other two poems, “I Am Watermelon, I Am Lamb” and “Skin Mole” appear at On the Seawall. The latter is almost folktale-like in its rhythms: a woman discovers a mole is growing on her leg, a small, fatherless daughter to join her in her forty-fourth year:

And also delightful that I found out about her today,

on this hour, not tomorrow or the day after,

and wonderful that no orphanage will take her away,

no child protective services

will accuse me of maternal incompetence

toward a mole on my skin.

While in “I Am Watermelon, I Am Lamb,” the poem’s narrator finds herself used for various purposes — a drinking vessel, a sponge, a watermelon, a lamb — until she hurls herself to the floor, after which she must “regather myself by myself, / sweep the floor, as I do / whenever dust fills my house / after I forget my soul windows open.”

Read all three, in Joudah’s translation:

At Guernica

At On the Seawall