From early days you were the entrepreneur
hawking produce from the family fields
bartering in the playground to add
pennies to the communal pot.
You grew feasting on almonds, pomegranates
tomatoes warm with the sun – and on words;
devoured every book the small school possessed
began to gnaw at the professor’s stock.
Tanks, stones, missiles, murders marked your youth
then forced exile, the village and fields left behind;
more scraping for an existence but always
more reading, learning – you began to write.
Later your family seeped back across
the border; your childhood sweetheart
stayed, married and one dream slowly died.
You took an arranged bride.
With Saffariyya flattened you live your life
in Nazareth nearby and the village becomes
your myth, its stones, courtyards, people
the lodestone of all that you are.
Days full of duty, compromise, juggling, but
nights bathed in books, penning words.
Stories come first, of people and places; a past
you can’t lose, a present gripped with both hands.
Then an Eden of poems blossoms, a smelting
of bitter nuggets tempered with fragrance
of herbs, the chance laughter of a small child.
Its seeds spread wide, travel West.
At readings, the eloquence of your Arabic
needs no translation, nor the passion and feeling.
You handle the praise, pocket your glasses,
spread your broad hands on old knees
and mutter into your stubble
My happiness bears
no relation to happiness.
– Patricia Leighton, Bromsgrove, UK
[ Saffariyya was the birthplace of the Palestinian poet, Taha Muhammed Ali.
It was obliterated during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. ]
© 2016, poem, Patricia Leighton, All rights reserved; photograph coutesy of AVRAMGR under CC BY-SA 4.0 license