Things Sleeping

Translated from the Arabic by Mariam Hijjawi


Look at me, mother, 
I’m back with more meat
and bones and wisdom.

These days I can think of death,
can sleep without being lulled,  
my milk teeth now grind my losses.
I came back to find
tongues of lullabies severed, 
children bellowing in every corner, 
and the muezzin’s call stifled
by a strange hand. 

Return is a movie screen, 
and I no longer recognize the lead.
Though she’s only come in once,
she’s tampered with the script
a thousand times. 

Return is a cat who ate its young. 

Return is my braid,
which I cut off
and fed to time. 

The once green garden is now a woman 
afraid of old age, 
the well, a bed in a hospital, 
and cats are the souls of women 
who cried on my arm.
And I am now your mother. 
I shield your body with my own,
from the bullet that your seventy years
will suddenly release. 

The accent I once rode
now rests beneath the earth. 
What happened to the shifting “Qaf”
and the “Kaf” that barely came out? 
Where is the sling and the bird?
Where is the neighbors’ boy? 
What was his name? 
And what was mine? 
If I’d only had a single name
I wouldn’t have forgotten it,
it would have struck me right on the head 
like a sniper’s bullet.  

Where are the skins I cured with life’s salt? 
Where are the supplies
for the war that never came?
They were devoured by waiting and mites. 
Where is that northern gate 
that opens out onto happiness? 

Where is my uncle Mahmoud,
who used to eat grass and ask God
to forgive humanity’s sins? 

My old father, who became my son, is dead.
But where is the young man
who was once my father? 
Where is that body I used to climb,
from whose forehead I picked
the sour fruits of time? 

Tell him that all the teachings of politics
have rotted in my head 
and that I’ve replaced them
with poems I do not understand.
I wanted to repair the verses 
but ruined them instead.
My mother put a finger to her mouth,
signaled me to keep quiet—

she pointed at the piles 
of things sleeping.

شياء نائمة

انظري إليّ يا أمّي 
فقد عدتُ بمزيد من اللحم 
والعظام والحكمة

صرت أفكّر بالموت وأنام دون هدهدة
وأسنان اللبن صارت تطحن الخسارات طحنًا

عدتُ فوجدتُ ألسنة التهاليل بتراء
أطفالا يجعرون من كلّ زاوية
صوتَ المؤذّن مكتومًا بيدٍ غريبة

العودةُ شاشةُ سينما
وأنا لم أعد أميّز تلك البطلة
دخلتُ مرّةً وعبثتُ بالسيناريو آلاف المرّات

العودة قطّة أكلتْ صغارها

العودةُ ظفيرتي ضفيرتي التي قصصتها ورميتها في أفواه الزّمن

صارت الحاكورةُ الخضراء امرأةً تخاف الهرم
والبئرُ صارت سريرًا في مشفى
والقططُ أرواحَ النساء اللاتي شهقنَ فوق زندي

وصرتُ أمّك 
أغطّي جسدك بجسدي
من رصاصةِ الغفلة 
التي ستُفلت من سنينك السّبعين

اللكنةُ التي ركبتها ناخت تحت التراب
أين رحلتْ القافُ المشّاءةُ 
وأين الكافُ التي لم تبرح العتبة
أين المقلاعُ والعصفورُ وابن الجيران؟
.... ماذا كان اسمه؟

كان اسمي؟

لو كان لاسمي اسمٌ واحدٌ ما كنتُ لأنساه
كان سيسقطُ فوق رأسي مباشرةً 
كرمية قنّاصٍ محترف

أين الجواعدُ التي يبّستها بملح الحياة 
أين مونةُ الحرب التي لم تأتِ
فأكلها الانتظار والسوس
أين البابُ الشماليُّ المفتوح على الفرح؟ 

أين عمّي محمود الذي أكل العشب
واستغفر الله ذنبَ البشريّة؟

أبي العجوزُ الذي صار ابني مات
لكن أين أبي الشّاب الذي كان أبي؟
أين الجسدُ الذي كنتُ أتسلّقُه وأقطفُ من جبينه ثمار التاريخ الحامضة؟

قولي له تعفّنتْ دروس السياسة في رأسي
واستبدلتُها بقصائد لا أفهمها
قصدتُ تكحيلها فأعميتها 

رفعتْ أمّي سبّابتها فوق شفتيها
أومأت لي بأن أخرس

.وأشارتْ إلى أكوامٍ من الأشياء النائمة


Asmaa Azaizeh is a poet, essayist, and editor based in Haifa. In 2010 Asmaa received the Debutant Writer Award from Al Qattan Foundation for her volume of poetry Liwa, (2011, Alahlia). She has published two other volumes of poetry: As the woman from Lod bore me (2015, Alahlia) and Don’t believe me if I talk of war (2019) in Arabic, Dutch, and Swedish. Asmaa has also published a bilingual poetry anthology in German and Arabic, Unturned stone (2017, Alahlia). She has contributed to and participated in various journals, anthologies, and poetry festivals around the world. Her poems have been translated into English, German, French, Persian, Swedish, Spanish, Greek, and more. Currently, she works as an editor for the Raseef22 newspaper.
Mariam Hijjawi is a Palestinian educator with a passion for playing with words, music, and paint. She takes a special interest in facilitating group singing and social games and an interest in the arts and their immense value for all.