New Poetry in Translation: Ghassan Zaqtan’s ‘Everything Knows You Will Rise’

“Everything Knows You Will Rise” appeared on October 23, 2023, in al-Ayyaam. The art published with this poem is from the cover Zaqtan’s The Silence That Remains, tr. Fady Joudah.

Everything Knows You Will Rise

By Ghassan Zaqtan

Translated by Samuel Wilder


Now you are alone

says the wall that comes at night,

there will be no knocks at the door

no pats on the shoulder,

the roads that led to your dreams

lie shattered, splayed

like corpses on the arid ground.


The paths you once crossed

without fear

to meet siblings and neighbors

when seasons were rough,

when life was hard and dry,

are clogged by stone,

unfulfillment, and dark intent.


The bridges that shined

in the memories of your fathers

fell in wadis that dried long ago.

Expect no one from there now.


But everything knows you will rise.


The time is gone

when far off dust

signalled comings and goings,

siblings on the road,

or a letter from your family.

The dust you see now

is the destruction of your houses

and the homes of your family there.

The smoke past the hill

is not caravans

or people returning,

it is the torching

of your uncles’ fields

and the orchards you once exulted in.

No dreams can grow

in these vessels you gathered and kept.


But everything knows you will rise.


You have no siblings left,

only this desert you gained,

where you were thrown,

this desert fed by your endurance,

it advanced

in your silence.


The wall each time brings the past,

the wall in place of the road.


The wall seeps through rooms and windows,

enters bedrooms bearing the scream

that it throws on the lodgings and beds,

on the shrouds of boys and girls:

‘you have no siblings left’

‘now you are alone.’

But everything knows you will rise.

Born near Bethlehem, Palestinian poet, novelist and editor Ghassan Zaqtan has lived in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Tunisia. He is the author of numerous collections of poetry, a novel and a play, The Narrow Sea, which was honoured at the 1994 Cairo Festival. His verse collection Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, translated by Fady Joudah, was awarded the Griffin Poetry Prize for 2013, and he was nominated for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in both 2014 and 2016. His name appeared for the first time in 2013 among the favorites to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Zaqtan’s collection Strangers in Light Coats is forthcoming from Seagull Books, in Robin Moger’s translation, next month. His novel, An Old Carriage with Curtains, is also forthcoming from Seagull, in Samuel Wilder’s translation.

Samuel Wilder is a translator of Arabic literature, a writer, and a student of comparative poetics. He has translated three books by Zaqtan. The latest, An Old Carriage with Curtains, is forthcoming from Seagull next month.