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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 


Quran


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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