• A CLARIFICATION

    Judas did not mean to "betray" me—
    he never even knew such a big word
    He was simply "a man of the market"
    and all he did—when the buyers came—
    was sell me

    Was the price too low?
    Not at all. Thirty silver coins
    are no small matter
    for a man made of dirt

    My dearest friends were all Judases
    they were all
    men of the market... more »

  • A GLIMPSE IN THE MIRROR

    Sometimes I glimpse in the mirror and see
    the ideal I strive for
    the gallant savior I wait for
    I see a thread of beauty rippling
    like a river of nobility
    But instantly I tell myself:
    Shut up and look away
    narcissus surrounded by Zionists' lies
    walls and checkpoints rising all around you
    Shut up
    and avert your gaze
    from your so-called beauty... more »

  • A Moment of Silence

    And what did the Armenians say?

    An Umayyad monk
    spins wheat and wool above us

    Time is a scarecrow





    That's what the Armenians said... more »

  • A SMALL DAWN

    You shone like daybreak in the mind
    I could not believe it:
    You were a voyager death had taken
    You were a dead man the voyage had taken
    And all we did—in surprise at your return—
    was run through our country
    torn apart by fences, hijacked
    by the settlers' grim buildings

    We don't know the nature of this canal that brought us to the sea
    nor which buildings or sidewalks or doleful dawn we suffered
    I could not believe it:
    You were a voyager death brought back
    You were a dead man the voyage brought back
    while I was polishing a jewel in the mind….

    I cannot believe that death and the voyage
    took you, then brought you back... more »

  • AWAKE

    Awake for longer than forever
    and since before eternity
    my waking is the wave that froths and foams

    Awake in hymns and the mailmen's passion
    Awake in a house that will be destroyed
    in a grave that machines will dig up:
    my country is the wave that froths and foams

    Awake so that the colonizers might leave
    Awake so that people can sleep
    "Everyone has to sleep sometime," they say
    I am awake
    and ready to die... more »

  • BELATED RECOGNITION

    Often I was the stone the builders neglected
    But when they came, worn out and remorseful
    after the destruction
    and said, "You are the cornerstone"
    there was nothing left to build

    Their denial was more bearable
    than their belated recognition... more »

  • IDENTITY CARD

    Despite—as my friends joke—the Kurds being famous for their severity, I was gentler than a summer breeze as I embraced my brothers in the four corners of the world.
    And I was the Armenian who did not believe the tears beneath the eyelids of history's snow
    that covers both the murdered and the murderers.

    Is it so much, after all that has happened, to drop my poetry in the mud?

    In every case I was a Syrian from Bethlehem raising the words of my Armenian brother, and a Turk from Konya entering the gate of Damascus.
    And a little while ago I arrived in Bayadir Wadi al-Sir and was welcomed by the breeze, the breeze that alone knew the meaning of a man coming from the Caucasus Mountains, his only companions his dignity and the bones of his ancestors.
    And when my heart first tread on Algerian soil, I did not doubt for a moment that I was an Amazigh.

    Everywhere I went they thought I was an Iraqi, and they were not wrong in this.
    And often I considered myself an Egyptian living and dying time and again by the Nile with my African forebears.
    But above anything I was an Aramaean. It is no wonder that my uncles were Byzantines, and that I was a Hijazi child coddled by Umar and Sophronius when Jerusalem was opened.

    There is no place that resisted its invaders except that I was of one its people; there is no free man to whom I am not bound in kinship, and there is no single tree or cloud to which I am not indebted. And my scorn for Zionists will not prevent me from saying that I was a Jew expelled from Andalusia, and that I still weave meaning from the light of that setting sun.

    In my house there is a window that opens onto Greece, an icon that points to Russia, a sweet scent forever drifting from Hijaz,
    and a mirror: No sooner do I stand before it than I see myself immersed in springtime in the gardens of Shiraz, and Isfahan, and Bukhara.

    And by anything less than this, one is not an Arab.... more »

  • IN HELL

    I.
    In the 1930s
    it occurred to the Nazis
    to put their victims in gas chambers
    Today's executioners are more professional:
    They put the gas chambers
    in their victims

    II.
    To Hell, 2010
    To Hell, you occupiers, you and all your progeny
    And may all mankind go to Hell if it looks like you
    May the boats and the planes, the banks and the billboards all go to Hell
    I scream, "To Hell…"
    knowing full well that I
    am the only one
    who lives there

    III.
    So let me lie down
    and rest my head on the pillows of Hell... more »

  • IN THE TRAP

    The mouse in the trap says:
    History is not on my side
    the reptiles are all agents of men
    and all mankind is against me
    and reality too is against me

    Yet despite all this I have faith
    my progeny will prevail... more »

  • IT'S NO USE

    It's no use hiding and locking the doors
    Moving into buildings where no one could know us
    is also no use
    Even if you run off the precipice
    and into the void
    history
    will still hold onto your name... more »

  • JERUSALEM

    When I leave you I turn to stone
    and when I come back I turn to stone

    I name you Medusa
    I name you the older sister of Sodom and Gomorrah
    you the baptismal basin that burned Rome

    The murdered hum their poems on the hills
    and the rebels reproach the tellers of their stories
    while I leave the sea behind and come back
    to you, come back
    by this small river that flows in your despair

    I hear the reciters of the Quran and the shrouders of corpses
    I hear the dust of the condolers
    I am not yet thirty, but you buried me, time and again
    and each time, for your sake
    I emerge from the earth
    So let those who sing your praises go to hell
    those who sell souvenirs of your pain
    all those who are standing with me, now, in the picture

    I name you Medusa
    I name you the older sister of Sodom and Gomorrah
    you the baptismal basin that still burns

    When I leave you I turn to stone
    When I come back I turn to stone... more »

  • Mary

    My mother is obsessed with reading about Jesus these days.

    I see books piled by her bed, most of them borrowed from my library: novels, handbooks, sectarian polemics, writers coming to blows. Sometimes when I'm passing by her room she calls on me to step between them and resolve their disputes. (A little while ago I came to the aid of a historian called Kamal Salibi, whose forehead had been split open by a Catholic stone.)

    What a diligent reader she is when she's searching for Jesus, this woman I never failed to disappoint: I was not martyred in the first intifada, nor in the second, nor in the third. And just between you and me, I won't be martyred in any future intifada either, nor will 
I be killed by some booby-trapped stork.

    As she reads, her orthodox imagination crucifies me with every page.... while I do nothing but supply it with more books and nails.... more »

  • TAKEOFF

    You take off from the earth
    but can't help falling back again
    You'll land
    on your feet or on your face, you'll land
    Even if the plane explodes
    your pieces, your atoms
    will still land
    You're nailed to it:
    the earth, your small cross... more »

  • TO DRAW BACK THE BLINDS

    To draw back the blinds and look at the sky
    to see the treetops relishing the play of the breeze
    to think you're a visitor here in a novel
    or a melody wasted by the choir . . .

    A soft bed is worth the sky
    waking up free is worth a year of life

    Then, from your room in a high-rise hotel
    you look down upon the roofs
    the satellite dishes and the treetops
    and ask yourself, What's the meaning
    of trees swaying amid concrete buildings?
    though the treetops are your sole consolation
    and the only joy still left to you

    Pass onto midday
    which you call morning, you daytime sleeper:
    Life awaits you... more »

  • VOICELESS CHAMBERS

    He is hung now on a piece of wood
    and all I can do is scream
    in these chambers no voice can penetrate:
    He is hung now on a piece of wood

    Night and day
    in winter and summer
    in wind, fire, earth, water
    in darkness and light
    he is hung now:

    The world is hung on a piece of wood... more »

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    I need a strict manager
    and an energetic secretary
    and a correspondent to make my coffee
    and my tea
    I need an intellectual
    and a poet
    and a mafia godfather
    to divide my life among them

    And I'll announce, after a while
    my bankruptcy
    like the companies do

    I need a servant
    and a traitor
    a lover to have me murdered
    beaten to death
    by sandals in the bath:
    I need a queen
    to betray me with the king... more »