Marwan Makhoul

Marwan Makhoul was born to a Palestinian father and a Lebanese mother in 1979 in the village of Boqai'a in the Upper Galilee region of Palestine. In 2006 he was awarded the First prize and a Merit certificate by the Abd al-Muhasin al-Qattan Association in Ramallah for his then unpublished collections of poems titled The Daffodil Hunter. In 2009, his book was selected as the Best Palestinian poetry collection by the Palestinian Writers Association during the celebrations of Jerusalem as the capital city of Arab culture. He also won the Best Playwright Award for his debut play This Is Not Noah's Ark at the Masrahid theatre festival for Arabic single actor plays in Acre in 2009. A documentary film The Bride of the Galilee, which was based on one of his eponymous poems, won the second prize in the Haifa international documentary film festival in 2006. In 2004, Makhoul received a scholarship to participate in a literary translation workshop held by the Helicon poetry association where his poems were translated from Arabic into various languages. He currently lives in the village of Maalot Tarshiha. Makhoul has a Bachelorís degree in Civil Engineering from Al-Mustaqbal College and presently works as a civil engineer. He is also the director of a construction company. Makhoul's poetry has been translated into English, Turkish, Italian, German, French, Hebrew, Irish Gaelic and Serbian.


A Window To The Window


I see through the open window
A poor who sees but hope
Through the open window.

The beautiful in the window of the beloved
Is that it divides nature onto two sides;
The inner one is more beautiful.

The prisoner's window is like a cheating hole;
Equals between the prisoner and
Who prisoned him meaningfully.

The window has told me:
I saw the shades going to bed slowly
In the mountain's lap.

When you are alone
You can share the neighbors' weddings
Through the window.

The window has told me:
Yesterday a daylight passed by
looking for its last week as if it was doing
What the day before yesterday had done.

I say to the window:
My house is full of oxygen,
But I prefer to open you
When the mother of Jeryes visits me.

I say to the window:
Nothing separates between you and the wall
But it is meaningful.

The window and I say together:
Thank you dear reader!


Translated by Turki Amer, 2012



Al-Quds

What I want from Al-Quds
isnít what God wished for;
not streets visited by history
to the dance of a quick sacrifice and grown crowded.
Al-Quds contains sweeter things,
like evening gathering its kin to the bar
to make sleep bloodshot come morning.
In the city I have a girl-friend
not from the same stock as me,
a real honey
of the crab-apple confession.
Weekdays in the city are fine
but my intoxication is undone by the weekend
which resembles me in growing more dangerous
whenever the religious futilely clamour.
Being in Jerusalem
doesnít benefit the beneficiary
nor does her complaint
at the kisses of those who frisked God
at the checkpoint on the way in.
She left the city,
the girl from the crab-apple confession,
and I decided that Jerusalem
no longer contained much of any interest.
Haifa is more beautiful.



An Arab at Ben Gurion Airport



Iím an Arab!
I shouted, at the doorway to departures,
short-cutting the woman soldierís path to me.
I went up to her and said: Interrogate me! But
quickly, if you donít mind. I donít want to miss
take-off time.

She said: Where are you from?
Descended from Ghassassanian kings of Golan is my heroism, I said.
My neighbour was Rehab the harlot of Jericho
who gave Joshua the wink on his way to the West Bank
the day he occupied the land that occupied history after him
from the very first page.
My answers are as stony as Hebron granite:
I was born in the time of the Moabites who came down before you
to this submissive ancient land.
My father a Canaanite
my mother a Phoenician, from South Lebanon of old.
My mother, her mother died two months ago
and she was unable to see her mother off two months ago.
I wept in her arms so that on-looking from Buqaya might console
the worst blow of tragedy and fate:
Lebanon, you see impossible sister,
and my motherís mother alone
to the north!

 

Translated by Raphael Cohen



She asked me: Who packed your bag for you?

I said: Osama Ibn Laden! But hold on,
take it easy. Itís no more than a joke in poor taste,
a quip that the realists here like me use professionally
for the struggle.
Sixty years Iíve fought with words about peace.
I donít attack the settlement
and I donít have a tank like you do
ridden by a soldier to tickle Gaza.
Dropping a bomb from an Apache isnít on my CV
not because I lack qualifications,
no, but because I see on the horizon a ripple echoing
enough to the out-of-place revolt of the non-violent
and to good behaviour.


Did anyone give you something on the way here? she asked.

I said: An exile from Nayrab refugee camp
gave me memories
and the key to a house from the fabled past.
The rust on the key made me edgy, but Iím
like stainless steel, I compose self with self should I grow nostalgic,
for the groans of refugees
spread wings of longing across borders.
No guard can stop it, nor thousands
and not you for sure.


She said: Do you have any sharp implements in your possession?

I said: My passion
my skin, my olive complexion
my being born here in innocence, but for fate.
Pess-optimistic I was in the seventies
but Iím optimistic about the roars of disobedience
right now being raised to you in Gilboa gaol.
Iím straight out of the
tragic novels of history, the end of the story
a funeral for the past and a wedding
in the not far-off hall of hope.
A raisin from the Jordan Valley raised me
and taught me to speak.
I have a child whose due date I postponed, so heíll arrive
to a morning not made of straw like today, daughter of Ukraine.
The muezzinís chanting moves me, even though Iím an atheist.
I shout to mute the mournful wailing of the flutes,
to turn pistols into the undying strains of violins.


The soldier took me to search my things
ordering me to open my bag.
I do what she wants!
And from the depths of the bag ooze my heart and my song,
the meaning of it all slips out eloquently and crudely, within it all that is me.


She asked me: And whatís this?

I said: The sura of the Night Journey ascending the ladder of my veins, the Tafsir of Jalalayn,
the poetry of Abu Tayyeb al-Mutannabi and my sister Maram,
as a photograph and real at the same time,
a silk shawl to enwrap and protect me from the chill exile of relatives,
tobacco from a kiosk in Arraba that made my head spin until doubts got stoned.
Inside me a fierce loyalty, the wild thyme of my country,
the fieriness of pomegranate blossoms, Galilean and sparkling.
Inside me agate, camphor-wood, incense and my being alive,
the pearl that is Haifa: scintillating, everlasting, illuminating,
preposterous, relaxing in the pocket of our return for one reason
only: we worshipped our good intentions and bound
the nakba to a slip in the past and in me!


The soldier hands me over to a policeman
who pats me down and shouts in surprise:
Whatís this!?

The manhood of my nation, I say
and my progeny, the fold of my family and two doveís eggs
to hatch, male and female, from me and for me.
He searches me
for anything that could pose a threat
but this stranger is blind
forgetting the more destructive and important bombs within:
my spirit, my defiance, the swoop of the hawk in my breath and my body
my birthmark and my valour. That is me
whole and complete in a way this fool
will never see.


Now, after two hours of psychological grappling
I lick my wounds for a sufficient five minutes
then embark on the plane that has taken off. Not to leave
and not to return
but to see the soldier below me
the policeman in the national anthem of my shoes below me
and below me a big lie of tin-can history
like Ben Gurion become as always, as always, as always
below me.


translated by Raphael Cohen



DAILY POEMS

The homeland having fallen down a well
and after sixty years, itís up to us
to raise the rope a little, then let it fall again,
for only thus will hope learn patience.

***

There are things I donít understand,
not being an Israeli
and not being entirely Palestinian.

***

My country is the rape victim
I will marry.

***

My grandfather told me: Palestine is an irregular verb in the past.
My father said: No, itís in the present tense.
I say, and a plane has just landed nearby: My grandfatherís right
and my father too.




Forgotten Lines


Translated by Turki Amer, 2012


(1)

As the peasant digs his ax in earth
The plants get happy,
But heaven identifies with its sister
And cry.

(2)

There is but million suns
On the orange trees.

(3)

A small question:
What eats the worms
Which will eat me later on?

(4)

Why the lamb of my brother Alaa gets scared,
Every time the full of goodness feast gets closer?

(5)

My shadow has got a human shadow.

(6)

Sometimes, to pick a fruit
From the tree your father had planted
Is harder than sowing a new seed.

(7)

In Saffouryeh,
Beyond the pine forest,
The sabras are still giving fruit
And their owner is dying in Nazareth.

(8)

The nation fond of sad songs
Is a civilized one in the past tense.

(9)

When getting older,
The old man seeks for a living death
All friends are dwelling in.

(10)

Some live to escape from death,
And some have got bored with life
As if death is the one which escapes.

(11)

The voice of the ruler is husky,
Maybe because he is addressing me
In a loud voice I cannot understand.

(12)

History is being written in red pen
And put in the drawer of a revenge ruler
Like Fellownyahu.

(13)

Yes, Hitler,
You were a weak domino player.
You dropped the Jews on me
But I did not fall.

(14)

The Zionist who is keeping his far past so tight
Has taught me something:
I too miss my past which is still running on.

(15)

O Upper Galilee,
Because you are great,
So I am living in Maalot.

(16)

Talkativeness
Is a frightening bleed
In the brain of the talk.

(17)

Our names are not like us necessarily.
We should be given them in our thirties.

(18)

I'm brave in writing about any sensitive issue,
But coward to scream in an empty street.

(19)

I erased the truest thing
I have ever written about myself.

(20)

In front of you, Female,
The hero is breakable,
The street sweeper
And the poet as well.

(21)

The fastest vehicle to take me to you
Is a homeland made, my affection.

(22)

When you are missing I miss you.
When you come back I miss that missing.

(23)

I see sunrise in sunset
Coming from the hope ward.

(24)

Moon is but a red loaf
The daylight has forgotten
On the night's cooker.

(25)

Forgive me, Mr Newton!
Gravity does not drop the apple.
Earth yearns to its kids.

(26)

Poetry is not like reality.
It is like to admit, in Tom & Jerry's fights,
The least is the accused.

(27)

Politics is like a car
Driven by irresponsible old in lies and days.

(28)

The most beautiful thing in statues
Is that they are naked.

(29)

Killer and statue are alike,
Both are made of stone,
But statue does not harm.

(30)

In the dream truth looks bright,
You say in dream what you cannot do in daylight.

(31)

In mourning week sadness fades a little,
And some joy begins to grow up like mourning's beard.

(33)

A whore is more honored,
She does not hide anything
Like what "honored" do.

(34)

Killing is the son of death;
A fruit of illegal pregnancy.

(35)

Autumn has it beauties;
Leaves fall on pavements as if they were passersby.

(36)

Autumn has got more beautiful beauties;
God has put them in use for all seasons.

(37)

O lonely desert's oasis, don't be sad!
Don't you see horizon coming up from everywhere?

(38)

I and the horizon are yob;
We both have the light-hearted purpose
That claims extent.

(39)

"To be or not to be"
Is a matter in the hand of the F-16's pilot.

(40)

"To be (meaningfully) or not to be"
Is a for granted matter: to be!




HELLO BEIT HANOUN

Hello!
Beit Hanoun?
I heard on the news
that an artisan baker has come
to distribute bread
on the back of fresh artillery;
I also heard
that one of his loaves feeds
at least twenty children
and is so warm it burns, and solid
like a randomly targeted shell.
They said
the children woke up early that day
not to go to school
but to the local youth club
opposite the townís playground
that in summer is big enough for two massacres
and a certain hope, the hope to live.
I also heard
that when they were on their way
they made light of their wounds
and poured blood on the corners
till blood took the colour of the streets
and feelings.
When I saw what I saw on the screen
I thought I was dreaming
or the TV was dreaming the impossible made real.
I never imagined, Beit Hanoun,
that youíd mean anything to me
what with all the fun Iím having
like being busy with friends discussing
whether wine in the bottle
ferments or not.
I never knew youíd mean anything to me,
even something small
something small, Beit Hanoun.
Hello . . . ?
Hello . . . ?
Beit Hanoun?
Can you hear me?
I think the phoneís not working
or is perhaps asleep,
it is very late after all.
Never mind, let it go.
Iíve nothing better to do
than catch up with my brothers shading themselves
by the axed trunk of Arab solidarity.
Goodbye, Beit Hanoun.
Goodbye.


translated by Raphael Cohen



On the Tel Aviv Train



On the train to Tel Aviv
I saw her ...
a Russian reminiscent of acres of mint.
She had all of Moscow in her hand
and a child, who it seemed
was Middle Eastern.

In the same carriage, an Ethiopian
who stared at the faces of the passengers
stared until he grew bored of them.
Then he looked out of the window
at a ruined Arab village that held no interest.

A worker, a recent immigrant, sat
animated, since he would shortly get off
the train for his shift at a factory
that had just laid him off.

To my right sat a Jew
from Morocco who told me his woes
until he twigged to my accent.
He kept on talking, but
with the person to his right.

I got off at the next station
because the poem stopped.
 



The river


The river
Crosses the river if necessary
To turn back a bird that sang
Above a fountain
That has dried up.

The river is a ravine
Carrying more than it can bear
It has banks resembling life
It arrives
But never the same one each time.

The river is a sword when stormed
and inclines when bored.
Thoughts drink of the tips of its fingers
So that dreams can drink to the full.

The river is a fierce man
Cunningly dodging me
It is capable of anything
Except ascending.

The river is a stingy poet
It has lovely poems
Which are recited
Solely to the sea.

The river changes its course
So it doenít annoy a gazelle going down to the water
The riverís intention was noble
But then the gazelle
Found nothing to drink except dryness.

The river would not take advice
Itís always in a hurry
As if anything could remain as it is
Except for extinction


Translated by Hannah Amit-Kochavi, 2008


Al-Quds

What I want from Al-Quds
isnít what God wished for;
not streets visited by history
to the dance of a quick sacrifice and grown crowded.
Al-Quds contains sweeter things,
like evening gathering its kin to the bar
to make sleep bloodshot come morning.
In the city I have a girl-friend
not from the same stock as me,
a real honey
of the crab-apple confession.
Weekdays in the city are fine
but my intoxication is undone by the weekend
which resembles me in growing more dangerous
whenever the religious futilely clamour.
Being in Jerusalem
doesnít benefit the beneficiary
nor does her complaint
at the kisses of those who frisked God
at the checkpoint on the way in.
She left the city,
the girl from the crab-apple confession,
and I decided that Jerusalem
no longer contained much of any interest.
Haifa is more beautiful.


translated by Raphael Cohen

 


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