Sacrificial Poem

Asmaa Azaizeh
Translated from the Arabic by Yasmine Seale

I am a great admirer of the lives of prophets.Reading them is like buying a lottery ticket:the long fantasy they contain of a peaceful life,perfectly empty.So lost in thought you can hear Godwhisper in your inner ear,and you in turn mutter words unknownto human invention.You can see ultraviolet and infrared.You speak the language of frogs.You chase from your heartall the anguish of mountains.You rid the world of its habitof eating its own waste.Gentlemen, this is not a game,not some trick to write a trifling poem,not some ramble in a passing valley.The prophets worked hard at it.They saw so clearly each eyelidabandoned the other, and they spokethe words that have not left our lipsfor thousands of years.I want to speak like thembut my imagination is the size of a mouse holeand all its bright, quick micewere found slaughtered at its door.I want to say a word about slaughter,about the slaughtered tentsin slaughtered lands.About their residents,who fell from their mothersalready slaughtered.About the mothers, slaughteredin warehouses and wellslike henswith the knives of their children.Gentlemen, this is not a game.This is infrared and ultraviolet.Even acid cannot touch it.We must be prophetsand madmen to see it.I want to say a word about my indifferenceto the nation,about my sadness and the wayit clashes with this age of springsfabricating hope.I do not fabricate hope.I wash the brains of my friendsand I tell them this nation is the size of a mouse holeand I drag them to the plane door.I want to say a word about those who have no planes,to whose doors they cannot be dragged,and when they go out in search of one,are slaughtered and returnon ice, like vegetables.But I will say nothingfor my neck is short and I cannot seethe bottom of the well.My life is nothingbut a looping linebetween home and workand back.On my way I see girlshopping onto buseswith the lightness of hens,and lottery tickets darkeningthe city skies,and slaughtered prophetspecked by flies.

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Asmaa Azaizeh is a Palestinian poet, journalist, and cultural manager based in Haifa, Israel. She won the Young Writer Award from the A.M. Qattan Foundation in 2010 for her first volume of poetry, Liwa. Her second poetry collection, As The Woman From Lod Bore Me, was published in 2015, and her third collection, Don’t believe me if I talk of war, will be published soon by Al-Mutawass it, Milan. Asmaa has also worked as an editor of print newspapers, a journalist, and a presenter for various TV and radio stations. She currently works as a freelance writer for cultural magazines, and as the artistic manage of Fattoush, a bar and art gallery in Haifa.

Yasmine Seale is a writer and translator from Arabic and French. Her essays on books and art have appeared in Harper’s Magazine, The Times Literary Supplement, The Nation, The Public Domain Review, Apollo, and frieze, among others. Her translation of Aladdin, from the French of Antoine Galland, was published in 2018. She is currently working on a new translation of The Thousand and One Nights for W.W. Norton. She lives in Istanbul.


January 2019

Taipei City

Lee Yew Leong

Senior Editor
Sam Carter

Poetry Editor
Lee Yew Leong

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