A Female Cry

O my life, nestled in the heart of paper

Look here:

Our sorrows have slammed shut the door of hope

Their ghosts embracing our color

Until we appeared like them

The ink in poems of worry.

Look at them, how they sink their teeth

In my side

Wolfing down my blossoms and sweet scents.

They killed my spring in its entirety

Stole my very life from the world

Unleashed the season of sleeplessness.

O my life, I have grown tired.

Let me depart to live out my life

Secluded forever in the silence of my land

Let me, for I cannot overpower them

Charged as they are by rays of daylight and twilight alike

My chains won’t be broken by you, O Fate,

While the trees of my oppression go unwatered by hope

I will go on living by withdrawing inwards

I feed off the fires of time, and burn up

So long as I am imprisoned by silence

So long as I am occupied by sadness.

How long have I lived on the ground of hope

Beset by the flowers of life

I water them from the spring of struggle

Raise them up through the resolve of youth

I play… sing for existence itself,

Look forward to the birth of peace.

I reveal every light with my eyes

Yet these sorrows, O life of mine,

Follow me like my own name in the heart of this place

Like echoes.

O my silent letters in the drowning sea:

Let me struggle on in nothingness

Alone with these sorrows, with tears of regret

I will always be inhabited by pain

As long as I accept being silenced.

O my dream, kidnapped from my younger years

Silence has ravaged us

Our tears have become a sea

Our patience has bored of us

Together, we rise up for sure

Whatever it was we wanted to be.

So let’s go

Raise up a cry

In the face of those shadowy ghosts.

For how long, O fire within,

Will you scorch my breast with tears?

And how long, O scream,

Will you remain in the hearts of women!

[Translated from the Arabic by Andrew Leber] 

Dareen Tatour is a Palestinian poet, photographer and activist from Nazareth. Early on the morning of October 11th, 2015, she was arrested and charged with incitement to violence and supporting a terrorist organization for a series of Facebook posts, including a poem entitled “Resist, My People, Resist Them.” Under house arrest since January 2016, she faces an ongoing and increasingly absurd trial that has seen prosecutor Alina Hardak call literary professors to the stand in an unsuccessful attempt to deny that Tatour is a poet, rely on inexpert translations of the poem into Hebrew to warp the word shahid (martyr) into terrorist, and prolong the case month after month with no conclusion in sight. Several of her poems were included in the recent anthology A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry, out now from Smokestack Books.

You can connect with Dareen as part of the World People’s Premiere for Where Olive Trees Weep, June 10, 2024.


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