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Inking The Resistance: Poets Of Palestine Part 2

This article is the second in the series mapping the poems of the Palestinian Resistence Literature.

In the last article, we higlighted the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish and its role in consolidating the resistence. This article looks at the poetry of Tamim Al-Barghouti and his contribution to the global literarure. 

Tamim Al-Barghouti

Tamim Al-Barghouti

Tamim Al-Barghouti is a poet, columnist, and political scientist of Palestinian-Egyptian origin. He is known as the "Poet of Jerusalem."

Tamim’s poem In Jerusalem recollects his last visit and the condition of the occupied capital of his homeland. It accounts for what the eyes witnessed, a reportage blended into poetry. It highlights life under the occupation, the long history of the place and the degradation of life as it was known. However, despite its dismay at the condition, it anticipates a reassuring future. 


In Jerusalem


We passed by the home of the beloved

but the enemy’s laws and wall turned us away

I said to myself, “Maybe, that is a blessing”

What will you see in Jerusalem when you visit?

You will see all that you can’t stand

when her houses become visible from all sides

When meeting her beloved, not every soul rejoices

Nor does every absence harm

If they are delighted when meeting before departure

such joy cannot remain kindled

For once your eyes have seen Jerusalem

You will only see her, wherever you look.

In Jerusalem, a greengrocer from Georgia,

annoyed with his wife,

thinks of going on vacation or painting his house

In Jerusalem, a middle-aged man from Upper Manhattan 

holds a Torah and teaches Polish boys its commandments

In Jerusalem, an Ethiopian policeman 

seals off a street in the marketplace,

A machine gun hangs from the shoulder of a teenage settler,

A person wearing a yarmulke

bows at the Wailing Wall,

Blonde European tourists who don’t see Jerusalem at all

but spend most of the time taking pictures of each other

beside a Palestinian woman selling radishes in public squares all day long

In Jerusalem, there are walls of basil

In Jerusalem, there are barricades of concrete

In Jerusalem, the soldiers marched with heavy boots over the clouds

In Jerusalem, we were forced to pray on the asphalt

In Jerusalem, everyone is there but you.

And History turned to me and smiled:

“Have you really thought that you would overlook them 

and see others?

Here they are in front of you; 

They are the text while you are the footnote and margin

O son, have you thought that your visit would remove, from the city’s face,

the thick veil of her present, so that you may see what you desire?

In Jerusalem, everyone is there but you.

Jerusalem is the wandering deer 

As fate sentenced it to departure

You still chase her since she bid you farewell

O son, calm down for a while, I see that you began to faint”

In Jerusalem, everyone is there but you.

O historian, wait,

The city has two timelines:

One foreign, serene, with steady steps as if it is walking asleep

The other wears a mask and walks secretly with caution

And Jerusalem knows herself, 

Ask the people there, everyone will guide you

Everything in the city 

has a tongue which, when you ask, will reply

In Jerusalem, the crescent becomes more curved like an embryo

Bending towards other crescents over the domes

And over the years, their relation developed to be like a father to a son

In Jerusalem, the stones of the buildings are quoted from the Bible and the 


In Jerusalem, beauty is octagonal and blue

On top of it, lies a golden dome

that looks like, I think, a convex mirror 

Reflecting the face of the heavens

Playing with it, drawing it near 

Distributing the sky, like aid in a siege for those in need 

If people appeal to God after Friday sermon

In Jerusalem, the sky is shared by everyone, 

We protect it and it protects us

And we carry it on our shoulders

If time oppresses its moons.


In Jerusalem, the marble columns are dark 

as though their veins were smoke

Windows, high in mosques and churches,

took dawn by hand, showing him how to paint with colors

He says, “like this”

but the windows reply, “no, like this”

And after long debate, they compromise

as the dawn is free when outside the threshold

But if he wants to enter through God’s Windows

He has to abide by their rules

In Jerusalem there’s a school built by a Mameluke

who came from beyond 

the river, 

was sold at a slave market in Isfahan

to a merchant from Baghdad, who traveled to Aleppo,

and gave the Mameluke to Aleppo’s Prince

Fearing the blueness in the Mameluke’s left eye, 

the Prince gave him to a caravan heading for Egypt

where soon, he became the vanquisher of the Moguls and the Sovereign Sultan

In Jerusalem, the scent of Babylon and India 

are at an herbalist’s shop in Khan El Zeit5

I swear, it is a scent with a language that you will understand if you listen; 

It says to me

when tear gas canisters are being fired

“Don’t worry”

And as the gas wanes, that scent fills the air again and says:

“You see?”

In Jerusalem, contradictions get along, and wonders cannot be denied 

People check them out like pieces of old and new fabric

and miracles there are tangible.

In Jerusalem, if you shake hands with an old man or touch a building

you will find, engraved on your palm, my friend, a poem or two

In Jerusalem, despite successive calamities

a breeze of innocence and childhood fills the air

And you can see doves fly high 

announcing, between two shots, the birth of an independent state

In Jerusalem, the rows of graves 

are the lines of the city’s history while the book is the soil

Everyone has passed through

For Jerusalem welcomes all visitors, whether disbelievers or believers

Walk through, and read the headstones in all languages

You will find the Africans, the Europeans, the Kipchaks, the Slavs, the Bosniaks,

the Tatars, the Turks, the believers, the disbelievers, 

the poor and the rich, the hermits, and the miscreants

Here lie all sorts of people that ever walked the earth

They were the footnotes of the book, now they are the main text before us.

Is it just for us that the city has become too small?

Oh chronicler! What made you exclude us?

Re-write and think again, for I see that you made a grave mistake

The eyes close, then look again 

The driver of the yellow car heads north, away from the city’s gates.

And now Jerusalem is behind us

I could glance at her through the right wing-mirror

Her colors have changed before the sunset

Then, a smile sneaked onto my face

and said to me when I looked close and careful,

“Oh you who weep behind the wall, are you a fool?

Have you lost your mind?

Do not weep because you were excluded from the main text

O Arab, do not weep, and know for sure

that whomever is in Jerusalem

It is only you I see.”

-Tamim Al-Barghouti


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