At the Israeli Checkpoint, Palestine (for Mahmoud Darwish, In Memory of the Greatest of Arab Poets)

Sam Hamod

    (for Mahmoud Darwish, in memory of the greatest of Arab poets)

At the checkpoint, the

Israeli private asked me my name, I told

her, my name is

Zaitoun, she asked, what does that mean,

I told her 4,000 year old trees, she laughed,

asked for my real name, I told her, “Dumm,” what?

i said, it means blood, she said, that’s no name, I told her

blood of my grandfather, my father, my uncle

and even mine if necessary, she bridled, called the corporal,

he came running up, said, what kind of threat is that,

I said, it’s no threat, it’s just a fact,

he called the sergeant, he came up and hit me before he spoke,

my mouth bled, I told him, this is the blood I mean, that same

blood, you are afraid of, it’s over 4000 years old, see how dark it is

he called the lieutenant, who asked why my mouth was bleeding,

the sergeant said I had threatened him, the lieutenant asked me

if that was the truth, I told him, I had only stated facts, that

they would be true, after they conferred, he called the

colonel, the colonel came over and asked why I’d been provocative,

I said, all I was doing was stating facts; he asked what I did,

I told him, I was a farmer, he asked what kind, I told him

a farmer with words, what some call a poet—

“yes, now I know your name, Mahmoud Darwish,

you’re well known in Israel,”

he asked me if I knew the work of Amichai, I told him yes,

that I’d met him, that he knew what I meant, that Amichai was

sorry for what he’d felt he “had to do”—the colonel shrugged

dismissed the others and told me, “pass on,

I understand, but they don’t, they are not Jews, I am a Jew,

not a Zionist”

I pulled the qhubz arabi from my pocket, pulled some zaitoun

from another, some jibbin from my bag and gave it to him–

we laughed, he split the bread in half—

we ate together, we laughed at how sad and foolish all this was

* qhubz arabi: bread of the arabs

jibin: arab cheese

zaitoun: olives


please see author’s complete biography on the “Home Page,” and in “Author’s Page.”


Ko Un
Translation by Don Mee Choi


Retail price of 30 cucumbers is only one thousand won, it’s dumbfounding
Our cucumbers taken to Karak Street, Orak Street in Seoul go for
400 won for a bundle of 50. It doen’t even make the transport cost
Even big round melons are 500 won for 10
a flat of garlic, 100 bulbs, is less than 2000 won
This is our crop, this is our crop

Smash this dog-craziness
let’s go to Seoul
let’s go to Seoul to live or die
My daughter can become a whore or factory girl
my wife can go as a maid
I’ll rise to the drum’s fury, climb to Mount South
scream once and kill myself!

Let’s go to Seoul
Let’s go to Seoul

Let’s go to Seoul to wreck life

Translated by Don Mee Choi


Ko Un was born in Gunsa, North Jeolla Province, Korea. Un became active in the democracy movement and led efforts for democracy in South Korea, which resulted in four imprisonments. After his prison release, he continued his writing, and since 2007, he remains a visiting scholar at Seoul National University where he teaches poetics and literature. His works include The Sound of My Waves, Beyond Self, Little Pilgrim, Ten Thousand Lives, The Three Way Tavern, Flowers of a Moment, and Songs for Tomorrow: A Collection of Poems 1961-2001, among others. Ko Un has won several literary awards including; Korean Literature Prize (1974, 1987), Manhae Literary Prize (1989), Joongang Literary Prize (1991), Daesan Literary Prize (1994),  Cikada Prize, and Griffin Poetry Prize Lifetime Recognition Award (2008), among others.

 Don Mee Choi for complete bio please see other translated works in CWPJ and on Author’s Page.



Kate Harding


Three days after my mother died,
her hollyhocks tumbled down
under their own weight. My father had
disappeared. I had eaten the last
of her meatloaf wrapped in wax paper.

She had waved me out of her kitchen.
“No need to learn to cook. You’ll be
a professor.” She ground her own meat,
the red strings wriggling like worms.

Though I only had my learner’s permit
I drove her old Plymouth to the store.

There were whole aisles in Safeway she
never went down. That first day I bought
Bird’s Eye frozen broccoli and macaroni
and cheese.

The mothers of my friends gossiped about me,
told their daughters, “Stay away from her.
Who knows what’s going on in that house?
Parties. Boys.”

There were no parties. No boys. Nights,
I was so lonesome I would call the Time
and a lady would say it is now three oh three.
I made JELLO and Swanson’s turkey dinners.

I asked the gym teacher, perky Miss Butler,
a woman whom a month before I would never
have talked to, about salads. Miss Butler coached

the  Sergeantnettes,  a girls’ marching drill team.
She told me she had polio as a child. I tucked
that away. People could survive all sorts of things.
She said, “Wash the lettuce first.”

I fried hamburger meat, flames jumping
wildly under the iron skillet. A month later,
my father reappeared, moved us to a dingy
apartment across town.

Nights, I would sit in my mother’s car.
in front of our old house. The new owner,
a gardener, staked my mother’s hollyhocks.
I couldn’t see the pale pink, ruby, and yellow
flowers in the dark. But I knew they were there.



Kate Harding is a Pushcart Prize nominee in both fiction and poetry. Her work has appeared in numerous journals including Contemporary World Literature: Journal for the Arts, Poetry International,  Perigee, Today’s Alternative News  and the San Diego Poetry Annual. New work will be forthcoming in The Hummingbird Review.