Zakaria Mohammed: Eight Poems

Eight Poems
Zakaria Mohammed
Translated by Sinan Antoon

[Zakaria Mohammed. Image from author]
[Zakaria Mohammed. Image from author]

I am a star, a tiny star
Light seeps from my body
No, I am an ant
an ant carrying the dictionary’s words in its jaws
to nibble at them
in its house

There is no death
There is only a tiny cloud that passes and covers your eyes
Like a friend who comes from behind and blindfolds you with his hands
There is no death
There is a black goat and a tattooed hand milking an udder
White milk fills your mouth and flows in your eyes
Again, there is no death
There is a Raspberry tree
It holds your shoulder and hurts you
because it wants to open the way for turtles
There is no death
There isn’t
at all

Don’t make anyone suture your wound for you
The wound is yours
The thread is yours
Blood is your thought bleeding between them

Don’t wet your lip with water
Your lip is taken prisoner with wine
and ransomed by it

The murdered are in the morgue
We ascend to the refrigerator to identify their corpses
Each points to his murdered
and his pursed lip
As for the souls
They’ll never be found
Bullets burst them like soap bubbles

A flock of birds fly in the evening
In search of a tree to perch 
and spend the night on its branches
I am a tree, a dark tree, in the evening
That’s why the birds will perch
on my elbow, shoulder, hair, and heart
The noise they make as they perch is unbearable
But I can’t chase them away
This big flock is the souls of my brothers
and I am obliged to be its house

A large, lost, and shivering multitude
I am the only tree in this dreary plain called night
The shivering hands want firewood to warm themselves
And I, who appear to be a tree, am obliged to feed the fire my branches

This is what they call memories

Words are of no use
Six of them are for mourning
Only one for joy
Nay, ten are for mourning and only one for joy
Ah, if only we could send them back to God
Who threw them like a grenade in our mouths and throats

The poem starts with desire
There is no idea, words, or rhythm
Only a vague nameless desire 
Then you climb dark stairs
As if they are not there, or yet to appear 
You climb fearing that you might trip and break your heel
But when you place your foot on the last step
light emanates
As if a shut door was suddenly flung open to the sun
You see the stairs you climbed
the stairs you built
Then you come down happy
to count the steps you made and climbed

One day I will reach the house
Take the weight off my shoulders and place at the door and go in. No one will be there. I will push the door, enter, and sit in the silence. The setting sun divides the house with its sword into two halves: one dark, one lit. I will sit between the darkness and the light. The past flows behind me like a brook. The future wriggles before me like a snail. And I am without time. There, in the silence, between darkness and light, I will become stone, a statue on a huge sculpted boundary stone. With the chisel, the sculptor’s hand will engrave my thigh: This is the boundary. This is the dam. The past’s waters flow to the past and the future’s the opposite direction.
One day I will be a statue with a broken neck: A hand eaten by darkness and another gnawed by light.

[Translated from the Arabic by Sinan Antoon. From Zakaria Mohammed, Kushtuban, Amman/Ramallah: Dar al-Nashir, 2014]



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