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.”

Book of Sins (House of Nehesi Publishers) by Palestinian/Israeli poet Nidaa Khoury

Reviews in from South Africa, Israel, Turkey
Book of Sins by Palestinian/Israeli poet Nidaa Khoury published in the Caribbean

 
ST. MARTIN, Caribbean (2011)—Book of Sins by Nidaa Khoury, a leading Palestinian poet in Israel, has been released here by House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP), said publisher Lasana M. Sekou.

The new poetry collection is the eighth book by Khoury but her first full English translation with the full Arabic and Hebrew texts in the same book, said Sekou.Nidaa Khoury is “One of the major exponents of modernist Arab women writing,” said Israeli professor Yair Huri.In Book of Sins, Khoury’s poetry “is fired by belief in the human and the spiritual at a time when many of us feel unreal and often spiritually hollow,” said Huri.Khoury’s poems “are burning off the pages—with a rhythm embedded in fury and a beauty embedded in the ancient,” said the South African novelist Antjie Krog.Betsy Rosenberg translated what Huri calls “The exquisite purity of Khoury’s style” in Book of Sins from the original Arabic into English and Hebrew.

With Book of Sins HNP is further introducing the Middle Eastern poet to the Caribbean and the Americas www.Amazon.com, said Sekou.
This is HNP’s third multilingual poetry book in less than one year. The press, based on the island of St. Martin in the Caribbean, has published literary giants such as George Lamming, Kamau Brathwaite, Amiri Baraka, Chiqui Vicioso, and Shake Keane.
 

Nidaa Khoury was born in the Galilee village of Fassuta in 1959. Her books include The Barefoot River, The Prettiest of Gods Cry, and The Bitter Crown. The latter was censored in Jordan. Her previous titles were published in Israel, Lebanon, and Egypt.

 

According to the Turkish author Karin Karakaşlı, Book of Sins is “Written in water and ink, in between the shed blood. Nidaa Khoury’s poems take us to the bosom of an ancient woman… an archetype revived.”Khoury is studied in Israeli universities and widely reviewed by the Arab press. She is the founder of the Association of Survival, an NGO for minorities in Israel.

The poet has participated in over 30 international conferences such as the Conference of Arab Poets (Amsterdam), the Conference of Human Rights and Solidarity with the Third World (Paris), Poetry Africa, the Poetry Festival of Jordan, the International Poetry Festival of Medellin, the St. Martin Book Fair, and the Napoli Conference on Human Rights.Khoury, a senior lecturer at Ben-Gurion University, is the subject of the recent award-winning film, Nidaa Through Silence. Sarab for Dance is also producing Khoury’s poem “Portal to the Orient,” which is in Book of Sins, for performance in Palestine.
 

Book of Sins is available at www.Amazon.com, www.spdbooks.org, and www.houseofnehesipublish.com. Ask for this new title at your favorite bookstore.

 

 

Nidaa Khoury, a major exponent of modernist Arab women writing.

Goodbye

Lisa Suhair Majaj

 

Always knew it would come back
to haunt me. It was war, time was short,
 
the truck was leaving, and with it my hope
of safe passage from that besieged city.
 
She was in another place, phone lines
down, no time to search her out.
 
I had to flee. And so I did. I knew
the spool of time would never
 
rewind, that there would be no
going back; that with that leaving,
 
I would lose my chance to find her
before the bombs exploded–
 
her home destroyed, her brother burned,
her eyes torn to darkness.
 
Where is she now? Would she
remember me if I found her?
 
And if I kissed her cheeks three times,
Lebanese style, and called her habibti,
 
hayati, would she speak to me,
smile? Or would she turn away,
 
her life so changed, her griefs so far from mine
that there would be  no point in saying, even, goodbye?

 

 

Lisa Suhair Majaj is the author of Geographies of Light, winner of the Del Sol Press Poetry Prize. Her poems and essays have appeared in over fifty journals and anthologies worldwide. She is also co-editor of three collections of critical essays: Going Global: The Transnational Reception of Third World Women Writers; Intersections: Gender, Nation and Community in Arab Women’s Novels, and Etel Adnan: Critical Essays on the Arab-American Writer and Artist. She lives in Nicosia, Cyprus.