"Poems for Tonight" is translated from his fourth book, which was published in Nasra in early 2011 under a title which is translated as Her Tears Lament the Devastation. The co-translators have had their translations of Yousef's poems published recently in The Dirty Goat, Hayden's Ferry Review, Asymptote, Connotations Press: An Online Artifact, and Banipal: Magazine of Modern Arab Literature.
Since 2006, Yousef has worked as a project coordinator of theatre and youth groups for the Cultural Free Thought Association in Gaza City, Palestine Occupied Territories. He teaches drama, literature, and writing. He has written, directed, and acted in several plays, and has written five books. He has given reading tours in the Middle East and Spain. Some of his poems have been published in French and Spanish translation.
Yasmin Snounu was born in Gaza City, Palestine, and as a Fulbright scholar earned a master's degree in the teaching of English to speakers of other languages at Eastern Michigan University (2011). During her undergraduate studies, she volunteered in many Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Gaza. Upon earning her bachelor's degree at Al Azhar University with majors in English and French Literature, she worked at the Women's Affairs Center, which promotes the welfare of women in Gaza. Yasmin lived at home with her family through Israel's attack on Gaza in December 2008 - January 2009. She returned to Gaza and teaches English as a second language at a university there. She recently returned to EMU to begin a doctoral program in urban education.
Edward Morin has graduate degrees in English from The University of Chicago and Loyola University (Chicago). He has taught English and writing at Wayne State University, University of Michigan, and the University of Cincinnati. He has edited and, with Fang Dai and Dennis Ding, has co-translated an anthology, The Red Azalea: Chinese Poetry since the Cultural Revolution (U. of Hawaii Press, 1990). They have also co-translated a book length manuscript of poems by the contemporary Chinese Cai Qijiao. Collections of his poems include Labor Day at Walden Pond (1997) and The Dust of Our City (1978). His new collection of poems is the chapbook, Housing for Wrens, which is scheduled for publication in 2016 by Cervena Barva Press. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
Yasser Tabbaa has graduate degrees in anthropology and art history of the Middle East. He has been a curator of antiquities in museums of two Arab countries and has also been a teaching and publishing scholar for over two decades at U.S. universities including University of Texas, MIT, the University of Michigan, and Oberlin College. His books include The Transformation of Islamic Art during the Sunni Revival (U. of Washington Press, 2002) and Constructions of Power and Piety in Medieval Aleppo (Penn State Press, 1996).
1. Down and Far AwayThe dawn has kicked an entire night while quiet prevails outside the open window. A small hand whispers its ripe perfume. A sleepy light opens its eyes with difficulty and much yawning. Warmth is sneaking toward a heart that dances with a gipsy woman in a spirit of kinship where the Alhambra Palace sinks down far away. But God is closer than those transients think. The dancers' rhythm burnishes a land over which the wind blows to rustle up songs and a quick certitude of joy. Alone. Your blood cries beside the shore. For you the sea claps when it's joyful, dances when it's disappointed. The sea clashes with its waves, and the waves are a memory that tosses on an abandoned bed in a room. The room is closed and darkness is locked in its closet. The closet tells itself fantasies; on its old wood are many stories for a child running in the gardens of your soul.
2. I Blame No OneClumsy drowsiness has overcome me. I encounter fires flowing from the threshold of sleep. I ignite like a meaning being led into the abyss. An ambiguous chair dances inside the roof of visions and a small forgetfulness is rubbing its head. The closet tends to remember things. The mirror is broken, so is my reflection. This cup of cappuccino is tasteless, but does send warmth into my fingers' love. I breathe the absence I intend. And I recognize the distance that's like a sting in the heart. Back on my exhausting pillow, I blame no one but myself. I think of blindness. I see my ears drawing a swing on the beach. I think in complete darkness and see my nose drawing a hut near the swing after it has collected the perfumes of the women I love. I think of loneliness. I see my tongue drawing an island that has nothing to do with tastes. I walk a road I have to myself. White hands on a black cloth indicate traces of what has passed into nothingness. Cravings for shadows and the silence devour me.
3. From a Side of NothingnessA moon that's painted in my notebook weeps as does a rose leaning upon its light. It's been a harsh winter with cold nights. I am frightened by similitude. Gaza is a strange woman--she abandons her lovers-- a city lonely as a genteel widow set in her ways, whereas a silent world hides inside a pocket of ugliness. This world spins a silence of abandoned love. It also produces retarded mutants out of nothingness. Pus bleeds from the perfume of its torn vein. A world delineated by fatigue, it boasts of the flayed cadaver moldy in death. Everything slips into superstition growing on his tired hands. His head between his feet, he walks on pessimism and provocation. His music is a headache that assaults his blood.
4. A World of Regret through a WindowThe gate of horror opens onto the eyes deprived of mystery. The world is a mystery. This breathlessness is the trap of wastefulness. Breathlessness walks forth without coming back. Breathlessness leaves behind horrific lies. Just like birth, like a sculptor who disrobes his entire imagination and pastes it upon a stone. Just like death. Just like a martyr who leaves behind a wife, children, and little stories, and goes toward his certainty, which contains his perdition. Just like life. As any prophet crossing a road, knowing that life deserves to be lived, leaves the metaphor in the road. A world of regret seen through a broken window just as his desiccated soul cracks in a roaring fall.
5. I Am the Truth and It Is MineDo not be a slave to a land, you slave. The land is mine. Be a slave for me. Don't forget the day when I gave you my voice. Do not be a slave to talking, you slave. I am the one who owns speech. Be my slave. Don't be deluded by names and titles, you slave. I created those names and titles. Don't be a slave to your name or title, you slave. Be my slave. Don't be a slave to allegations, you slave. I am the truth and it is mine. Don't be a slave to superstitions flowing from your imagination, you slave. Forgiveness is mine. Be my slave.
6. Your Silence Hurts My VoiceA door is opening like a rose. The doorframe laughs without paying any attention. A flirtation sneaks from behind a veil of depression. The threshold worries as strangers pass through and dump their sadnesses into its chest. That chest is replete with fears and superstitions. This pain does not befit it, for your eyes in the mirror train me to jump over cruelty. Your smile gives birth to measurable joy. The pain which is in your silence hurts my voice. If I exploded now, I would become your laugh. I know your soul now waters roses in the prairie. The echo of your sadness walks slowly through alleys. Your steps are still singing on the threshold. Why were you staring at the old wall? When your soul gets sleepy, does it look like metaphors?
7. Enveloped in the Shadow of a TreeShe has seen the sky in his eyes and names leaking from his jacket pocket. As for the night: it is a piece of cloth that retains softness despite coming from faraway lands where the smell of the sea stung it during its great journey, and it suffered. They have taught him that the tree at their home steals oxygen each night and fills the darkness with suffocation. Still, he likes to be shrouded in its obscured shadow. He suddenly picks an orange and squeezes it, leaving the others jealous and alone.
8. Your EyesYour eyes are crusty coal, and this country is a shy poor person. Your eyes are a duplicate of death while joints in the pavement loosen. Your eyes are the exit of a bullet that leaves the chest empty and luminous. Your eyes take leave of the skin, and their entrance is a liquid killer. Oh, father, you who have frozen in fear, your eyes rob me of my days.
9. Eagerness DeferredShe blew in ardor suspended between melting and affection. Then followed a passion redolent of longing, questions flowing, desires expanding and flying toward a bosom which is protected by its piety. When I pretended I didn't want any, doubts managed to drive nails of pain into that saddened breast, shrouded with saffron. Sharp disappointment with eyes closed slept on your pillow. The light didn't care about the sound of a pulse. Butterflies peeling off the wall fly for no reason. Cursed damp gathers on your shapely legs. Your hands cannot stop trembling noticeably. The cat looks up at the ceiling. Between you and the door lies a forest of boredom. Abandoned trees promenade on your fingers. Lots of names tumble from your memory. To you, life seemed just like a wooden chair under a palm tree whose shadow is askew, in front of a churning sea and, of course, a fugitive sky. A story dissolves itself between two dreams, which it left neglected in a closet. The dreams dislike those who neglect them. The dreams also flee from the narrow breasts. In the pocket of your illusions is a lighter that ignites your soul with ridicule: it causes laughter, but never laughs. A sudden loss lifts you from the pavement you were passing by. An eagerness deferred incites to suicide amidst muffled groans of desire. A bright whiteness envelops grief and offers it as an answer to a stranger's prayer.
10. He Would Have Translated the IllusionFather, your morning is all roses and incense. O father whose heart trembles, while she measures her dreams by her steps, your morning is all about stars and a short night that awaits her long night. Drink a little water next to her, rely on your patience from a tolerable distance, dance if you can like a dervish between her hands, go deeper into your passion, be rain if you did not want to be a stone, the rain needs rain. Are you coursing toward a deadly nostalgia, toward a safe womb that protects you from the evils of your fears, which suddenly jump out of your soul? He would have translated the illusion using poems and tears. They are the same thing! Open your chest to reveal the icy springs, and search for shrewdness. Let the stone's heart bleed under the world's foot. You have a bird whose size matches your ardor over a sea of a flame.