DNA, by Mazen Maarouf

Feature image by Eben Kling. Courtesy the artist

Feature image by Eben Kling. Courtesy the artist

DNA

By Mazen Maarouf

There is only one way
to scream:
remembering that you’re…Palestinian.
One way to gaze at your face
in the bus window:
with the passing trees
and the porters who appear
whenever you stop.
One way
to reach the ozone layer:
lightly, like a balloon.
One way to cry:
because you really are a bastard.

One way
to place your hand on your lover’s breasts
and dream:
of distant things
like the Louvre
and a small apartment in a Paris suburb,
and of so much
solitude
and so many books.
One way to die:
provoke one of the snipers
in the morning’s early hours.
One way to say whore:
to the whore in your bed.
One way to smoke hash:
in an elevator, alone,
at eleven at night.
One way to write a poem:
miserably, in the bathroom.
One way to scream:
in the sewer,
where your face appears
for a second
in the shit-filled waters
to remind you
of how you’re nothing,
absolutely nothing,
but a Palestinian.

Translated from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid and Nathalie Handal. Originally published at Guernica.

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Author Image

Mazen Maarouf is a Palestinian-Icelandic poet and writer, lauded as a rising international literary star. He has published three collections of poetry: The Camera Doesn’t Capture Birds, Our Grief Resembles Bread, and most recently An Angel Suspended On The Clothesline, which has been translated into several languages including into French by Samira Negrouche (Amandier Poésie, 2013). He has written literary criticism in various Arabic magazines and newspapers, and he has translated numerous Icelandic writers.

Half-American and half-Egyptian, Kareem James Abu-Zeid was born in Kuwait, and has lived an itinerant life across the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. He has translated novels and books of poetry by Najwan Darwish (Palestine), Rabee Jaber (Lebanon), Dunya Mikhail (Iraq), and Tarek Eltayeb (Sudan). He was a Fulbright Fellow in Germany, and has received writer/translator residencies from the Banff Centre in Canada and the Lannan Foundation in the US.

Nathalie Handal has lived in Europe, the United States, Latin America, and the Arab world. She is the author of numerous books, most recently the critically acclaimed Poet in Andalucía and Love and Strange Horses, winner of the 2011 Gold Medal Independent Publisher Book Award. She is a Lannan Foundation Fellow, winner of the Alejo Zuloaga Order in Literature 2011, and Honored Finalist for the Gift of Freedom Award, among other honors.

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