Home > Poetry > Fear
Translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah
Published: Mon Oct 25 2021
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
AGNI 94 Violence War

I am therefore
they point their rifles at me.
Out of their eyes and fingertips, I come gushing.
They toss me over the laborers’ drowsy eyes
and tired shoulders
then carry me in their passports
and biographies. Thus I wander with them
as they terrify children
and startle mothers from sleep at night.
You’re looking
straight into my eyes so that I may
dispatch teenagers to the army
and shape their future.
Here I am armed on street corners,
inside tanks, on the roofs,
staring into space,
omnipresent, constantly working,
dispossessing slumber from its lids,
causing panic, caprice, unintended murder.
Can you address me
with reason, without it all falling apart,
your adages, myths, and creeds?
I am the deliverer of illusory happiness
in solid societies: “See how busy the roads are”
says the taxi driver as he points at the radio.
“Business is booming,
industry’s growing, and we’re thirteenth
among the nations.”
I pat the driver on the back,
he’s trembling in the dark,
rummaging for the bliss of one
who has accepted
this is as good as it gets.
I am their master’s servant:
I lead them to obedience, to faith:
that his order is better
than the chaos that would terminate them.

As long as you stare into my eyes, I shall remain.
As long as you are another.
As long as you are eternal.  

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Maya Abu-Alhayyat has published four poetry collections, four novels, and several books for children. A volume of poems selected and translated by Fady Joudah, You Can Be the Last Leaf, is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2022. Abu-Alhayyat’s writing has been translated into English, French, German, Swedish, and Korean. She lives in Jerusalem and since 2013 has worked as director of the Palestinian Writing Workshop in Birzeit, West Bank, Palestine. (updated 10/2021)

Fady Joudah is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Tethered to Stars (2021) and Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance (2018), both from Milkweed Editions. He has received the Griffin International Poetry Prize and is a Guggenheim fellow in poetry. (updated 10/2021)
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