A Picture of the House at Beit Jala

Ghassan Zaqtan
translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah

He has to return to shut that window,
it isn't entirely clear
whether this is what he must do,
things are no longer clear
since he lost them,
and it seems a hole somewhere within him
has opened up
Filling in the cracks has exhausted him
mending the fences
wiping the glass
cleaning the edges
and watching the dust that seems, since he lost them,
to lure his memories into hoax and ruse.
From here his childhood appears as if it were a trick!
Inspecting the doors has fully exhausted him
the window latches
the condition of the plants
and wiping the dust
that has not ceased flowing
into the rooms, on the beds, sheets, pots
and on the picture frames on the walls
Since he lost them he stays with friends
who become fewer
sleeps in their beds
that become narrower
while the dust gnaws at his memories "there"
... he must return to shut that window
the upper story window which he often forgets
at the end of the stairway that leads to the roof
Since he lost them
he aimlessly walks
and the day's small
purposes are also no longer clear.

translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah


  1. My God, I am so glad I follow you!
    This is a heart wrenchingly beautiful poem...where, my dear, do you find such beautiful things?
    Thank you for the inspiration!

  2. Great photo to go with a great poem, so sad.

  3. I've just typed this comment three times and I can't get out what I mean, so, i'll keep it simple... BEAUTIFUL... but contains so much sadness. Why can't humans be nice to each other!? (I tried to word this too cleverly, this version sounds much better!)

  4. This is a very haunting poem. How sad to lose one's memories. Every time I have a great time at something, I tell myself I've made a new rocking chair memory. The worry is that like my grandmother, whose mind was robbed by Alzheimers, I'll not be able to find them when it's time to mull them over again.

  5. So beautiful, and so sad...

  6. Hmmm...I can strangely relate...and the photo is haunting...as the dust builds up around me...

  7. Someday, when we are idling away enjoying sweet breezes on the back porch, you will have to share with me your resources for such great poetry.

  8. I felt these words in the bowels of my gut. This must have been how my grandmother felt succuming to alzheimers and how grandpa felt losing her. I know it's a different concept but it's what I came away with after reading this.

  9. I know...this gives me a cold chill up my spine. I'd like to believe I'll be vitally alive and with all my faculties until I die in my sleep, but that is not what I see around me. Perhaps being set adrift on an ice flow is more compassionate on second thought.

  10. Had to open many doors, respectively windows in my life too and until now most of the times, the image behind, surprises me every day.
    Which on the other hand provides also a motivation to continue, being many times hard and impossible to understand though.


Post a Comment

Hey, thanks for your thoughts and your time:>)

Popular posts from this blog

Saturday in CinCity. The CollegeGrrrl Guest Writer Edition.

Sunday in CinCity. The "Three Things I Know About Life...It Goes On" Edition

A Year with EB White