Poetry by Dareen Tatour

Detaining a Poem

One day,
they stopped me,
shackled me,
tied up my body, my soul,
my everything…

Then they said: search her,
we’ll find a terrorist within her!
They turned my heart inside out—
my eyes as well,
rummaged through even my feelings.
From my eyes they drew a pulse of inspiration;
from my heart, the ability to sketch out meanings.
Then they said: beware!
She’s hiding weapons deep in her pockets.
Search her!
Root out the explosives.
And so they searched me…

Finally, they said, accusing me:
We found nothing
in her pockets except letters.
We found nothing except for a poem.

Beware

Beware—
Write, in injustice, what you want
As you want it—
For injustice is blind
And the judges are wreathed in the color of darkness
You are not justice
You are the oppressor
The wretched perversion of the thing
The symbol of hypocrisy

Beware—
Beware—
The essence of a ruling
In the highest court in the land
Poetry is terrorism, something shameful
You criminal!
And so with your million sighs
Write your decision on what you will
As you will—
They won’t bother to read you
As you are, by this verdict, condemned

Beware—
Beware—
The people around me are a state of their own
A source of other rulings
They won’t read you
Instead, they read poetry
Manuscripts of endurance

Am I, with my craft, to be rejected?
Your face is the darkened one, scoured by the ordeal
And your features point to the roots of your weakness
Your voice cracks
Before the revelations of art
While the tune of my poetry is singing

Call out your verdict until you are hoarse
And write, in your decision, what you wish
As you wish—
They won’t read you
For the writer of the new justice
Has been welcomed by the beats of my poems
Light from a new sun

So write in your judgment what you wish
As you wish
You won’t stop my poetry from beating on
For in my heart is the sky

Story of a Child

In that moment, when my hair fell scattered
on the notebooks of his dreams,
my life was scattered across the echoes of existence drowning in that tyranny.
A fire writhes within at the thought of that time,
flickering between the stiff breezes of injustice
and of repression.
Dies out, smothered in sorrows.

Dareen as a child—
plays between the rose-covered hills.
Makes a necklace chain
from the blossoms of the orchard.

Dareen as a child—
lights her candles
counts up the years contained within her.
Her fingers reach seven—
she knows only how to draw things in color.

Dareen as
a child –
dances, jokes, laughs, runs,
plays on the sands of the seashore
and asks
What lies beyond the sea?
How do fish sleep?
Where is the end of the waters?
And would always pose the question:
How do roses appear and wither away?
How does night draw near and depart?
The waves lap at her knees
as a breeze plays with golden strands of hair
and she questions:
How does the sun arise and go out?
Who takes hold of it!
Who raises it up!
Who sets it down!
Who puts it out!
Who lights it aflame!
Does somebody live inside!

Dareen grew up–
comes to know the backstory of the sun, and the sea
the night, the blossoms, the roses, the moon, love,
secrets, silence, the nation.
All the nations.

She grew up—
started to stare at herself in the mirror,
play back memories of the past
recall their names
know who stole the dreams from her eyes,
and the sunshine
and the longing for yesterday…

Dareen grew up,
yet her life stopped short, in fear.
How tiring was the sound of the child, scolding
within her,
overflowing, burning, across the letters of her poems:
Ah— Ah—
How cruel is your weakness, human!
Ah— Ah—
How base is your injustice, human!

In this moment,
I light up the candle of my stories.
I dwell on my language
my books
my joy—my hope—my sadness
In the remains of my memory
My bird goes quiet in its cage—
the blood slows in my veins—
at the thought of the pain I suffer,
thinking up a title that narrates the roots of my distress.

Dareen grew up,
and tears began to envelop her.
She lives surrounded by that voice
Oh world— oh world—
The roses were picked in the season of blooming
and yet
did the wolf cry on the day
it managed to catch and eat the lamb?

Oh world— my apologies, oh world—
I’m a woman
yet
when I see children without shelter
my pain seems to course through their blood.
Like hunger.
Or like sugar.
Like comfort.
Like faith.

She grew up—
started to stare at herself in the mirror,
play back memories of the past
recall their names
know who stole the dreams from her eyes,
and the sunshine
and the longing for yesterday…

Dareen grew up,
yet her life stopped short, in fear.
How tiring was the sound of the child, scolding
within her,
overflowing, burning, across the letters of her poems:
Ah— Ah—
How cruel is your weakness, human!
Ah— Ah—
How base is your injustice, human!

In this moment,
I light up the candle of my stories.
I dwell on my language
my books
my joy—my hope—my sadness
In the remains of my memory
My bird goes quiet in its cage—
the blood slows in my veins—
at the thought of the pain I suffer,
thinking up a title that narrates the roots of my distress.

Dareen grew up,
and tears began to envelop her.
She lives surrounded by that voice
Oh world— oh world—
The roses were picked in the season of blooming
and yet
did the wolf cry on the day
it managed to catch and eat the lamb?

Oh world— my apologies, oh world—
I’m a woman
yet
when I see children without shelter
my pain seems to course through their blood.
Like hunger.
Or like sugar.
Like comfort.
Like faith.

Bios

Dareen Tatour

Dareen Tatour is a Palestinian poet, photographer, and activist from Reineh, north of Nazareth. On October 11th, 2015, she was arrested in a pre-dawn raid by the Israeli police and charged with incitement to violence and supporting a terrorist organization for three Facebook posts, including a poem entitled “Resist, My People, Resist Them.” She spent three months in prison and was later transferred to house arrest which, among other conditions, has barred her from the internet. She faces an ongoing trial that has seen prosecutor Alina Hardak present a translation of the poem made by a police officer with no experience in translation or literature. The defense invited a professional translator to testify, whom the prosecution denounced as biased, and called literary professors to the stand to note that Hebrew-language poets were not prosecuted for much harsher words even under Tsarist Russia or during the British occupation of Palestine. The prosecution has also tried to deny that Tatour is a poet. The prosecution relies on a distorted interpretation of the Arabic word shahid (“martyr”) as “terrorist,” generally refusing to translate the word in the proceedings.

An initial collection of her poems, The Last Invasion, was published locally in 2010. A further collection of poems and a novel are completed but are currently on a laptop confiscated by Israeli authorities. Several of her poems were included in the recent bilingual anthology A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry, out now from Smokestack Books.

Andrew Leber

Andrew Leber is a graduate student at Harvard University’s Department of Government. In and around research on the politics of oil-rich countries, he occasionally translates Arabic literature into English. His translations have been featured in Guernica, the New Statesman, and several short story anthologies by Comma Press, including Iraq +100: Stories from Another Iraq.

Copyright (c) Dareen Tatour, 2018. English translation copyright (c) Andrew Leber, 2018.