On November 13, we shared a special section on Palestinian poet Olivia Elias, who writes in French, which included video readings by Elias and her translators; a conversation between Elias and her translators, Sarah Riggs and Jérémy Victor Robert; and an excerpt of Elias’s “Your Name, Palestine,” translated by Sarah Riggs and Jérémy Victor Robert, with a drawing by Basil King.
The next day, Nov. 14, Elias wrote this poem of reflection & response; it is translated here by Jérémy Victor Robert.
Day 38, Nov. 14, I Didn’t See the Fall This Year
By Olivia Elias
Translated by Jérémy Victor Robert
I didn’t see the fall this year
I didn’t see the acacia blaze
the cranes fly away
only bombs & more bombs on Gaza in ruins
NO WATER NO FOOD NO FUEL & ELECTRICITY
for the people of the Ghetto
not even medicine absolute Deprivation
so have decided the Conquerors with the unfailing
support of their powerful Allies
in the first place the big Chief of America who
frantically shakes his veto-rattle
I didn’t see a single thing this fall
no blazing acacia no flying cranes
only a deluge of bombs dropped on the
overflowing in the middle of this madness
the big living river with multiple arms
of the children of Gaza
your small bodies which didn’t get the time to grow up
your dreams which didn’t get the time to blossom
your small bodies flowers of blood
your dreams blown away with the wind
I didn’t notice the fall this year
I didn’t say goodbye to the golden leaves
to the cranes
I must say goodbye goodbye to every single thing
like they do over there each night
before going to sleep parents & children
hugging each other & saying goodbye
perhaps we’ll be blessed to meet again
in another life a life that won’t be
ghetto & bantustans jails bombs & extinction
A poet of the Palestinian diaspora, Olivia Elias writes in French. Born in Haifa in 1944, she lived until the age of sixteen in Lebanon, where her family took refuge in 1948, then in Montreal, before moving to France. Her work, translated into English, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese, has appeared in anthologies and numerous journals. In 2022, she published her first book in English translation, Chaos, Crossing (World Poetry), translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid.
Jérémy Victor Robert is a translator between English and French who works and lives in his native Réunion Island.
Cover photo JoLynne Martin.