Reciting a Poem for Palestine: 7 Poems

Salem Jubran: The Exile


The sun walks through the border

Guns keep silent

A skylark starts its morning song

In Tulkarem

And flies away to sup

With the birds of a Kibbutz

A lonely donkey strolls

Across the firing line

Unheeded by the watching squad

But for me, your ousted son, my native land,

Between your skies and my eyes,

A stretch of border walls

Blackens the view!


Tawfiq Zayyad: The Impossible


It is much easier for you

To push an elephant through a needle’s eye,

Catch fried fish in galaxy,

Blow out the sun,

Imprison the wind,

Or make a crocodile speak,

Than to destroy by persecution

The shimmering glow of a belief

Or check our march

Towards our cause

One single step…


Fadwa Tuqan: Ever Alive


My beloved homeland

No matter how long the millstone

Of pain and agony churns you

In the wilderness of tyranny,

They will never be able

To pluck your eyes

Or kill your hopes and dreams

Or crucify your will to rise

Or steel the smiles of our children

Or destroy and burn,

Because out from our deep sorrows,

Out from the freshness of our spilled blood

Out from the quivering of life and death

Life will be reborn in you again………


Sameeh Al Qassem: I may lose my daily bread


I may lose my daily bread, if you wish

I may hawk my clothes and bed

I may become a stonecutter, or a porter

Or a street sweeper

I may search in animal dung for food

I may collapse, naked and starved

Enemy of light

I will not compromise

And to the end

I shall fight.

You may rob me of the last span of my land

You may ditch my youth in prison holes

Steel what my grandfather left me behind:

Some furniture or clothes and jars,

You may burn my poems and books

You may feed your dog on my flesh

You may impose a nightmare of your terror

On my village

Enemy of light

I shall not compromise

And to the end

I shall fight.


Enemy of light

The signs of joy and the tidings

Shouts of happiness and anthems


Are there at the port

And at the horizon

A sail is defying the wind and the deep sees

Overcoming all the challenges

It is the return of Ulysses

From the lost sees

It is the return of the sun

And the return of the ousted

And for their sake

I swear

I shall not compromise

And to the end

I shall fight!


Mahmoud Darwish:  I Come From There

I come from there and I have memories
Born as mortals are, I have a mother
And a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends,
And a prison cell with a cold window.
Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,
I have my own view,
And an extra blade of grass.
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,
And the bounty of birds,
And the immortal olive tree.
I walked this land before the swords
Turned its living body into a laden table.

I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother
When the sky weeps for her mother.
And I weep to make myself known

To a returning cloud.
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood
So that I could break the rule.
I learnt all the words and broke them up
To make a single word: Homeland…

Mahmoud Darwish:  Psalm Three

On the day when my words
were earth…
I was a friend to stalks of wheat.

On the day when my words
were wrath
I was a friend to chains.

On the day when my words
were stones
I was a friend to streams.

On the day when my words
were a rebellion
I was a friend to earthquakes.

On the day when my words
were bitter apples
I was a friend to the optimist.

But when my words became
flies covered
my lips!


Mahmoud Darwish: A State of Siege Fragments


Here, on the slopes of hills,
watching sunsets,
facing the cannons of time,
here by orchards with severed shadows,
we do what prisoners
what the unemployed do:
we nurse hope.


This siege will last until we teach our enemy
selections of pre-Islamic poetry.


Pain is:
when the housewife doesn’t set up the clothesline
in the morning and preoccupies herself with the cleanness of the flag.


The soldiers gauge the distance between being and nothingness
with a tank’s telescope.


We gauge the distance between our bodies and shells
with the sixth sense.


You who stand on our doorstep, come in
and drink with us Arabic coffee
[you might feel you are humans like us].
You who stand on our doorstep
get out of our mornings
so we can be certain
we are humans like you.


Behind the soldiers,
the pine trees and minarets
keep the sky from arching downward.
Behind the iron fence soldiers pee–
guarded by tanks–
and this autumn day keeps up its golden stroll
in a street wide as a church after Sunday prayer.


A humorous writer once said to me:
“If I knew the end, from the beginning,
I would have no business with words.”


The siege will last until those who lay the siege feel,
like the besieged, that boredom is a human attribute.


To resist means to maintain the soundness
of the heart and testicles and your interminable disease:


Writing is a puppy biting the void;
it wounds without blood.

Our coffee cups, the birds
and green trees with blue shade,
and sun leaping from wall
toward another wall, like a gazelle,
and water in clouds of endless forms
spread across whatever ration of sky is left for us,
and things whose remembrance is deferred
and this morning, strong and luminous—
all beckon we are guests of eternity.

Our Poets

For as long as the Palestinians have endured occupation and oppression—first under the British in the 1920-30s, then by the Israeli state after 1948—they have produced writers and poets who have articulated not only humiliation and despair, but also resistance and the hope of liberation.

Israel’s most famous military commander of the 20th century, the notorious Moshe Dayan, once said of the great Palestinian poet Fadwa Tuqan that one of her poems was enough to create ten Palestinian resistance fighters.

The dissident Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has written, “What political activists did not dare express, poets sang out with force…”



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