Ghassan Zaqtan

1954 / Beit Jala / Palestine

Black Horses

The slain enemy
Think of me without mercy in their eternal sleep
Ghosts ascend the stairways of the house, rounding the corners
The ghosts I picked up from the roads
Collecting them from the sins around other people's necks.

The sin hangs at the throat like a burden
It is there I nurture my ghosts and feed them
The ghosts that float like black horses in my dreams.

With the vigor of the dead the latest Blues song rises
While I reflect on jealousy
The door is warped open, breath seeps through the cracks
The breath of the river
The breath of drunkards, the breath
Of the woman who awakes to her past in a public park.

When I sleep
I see a horse grazing the grass
When I fall asleep,
The horse watches over my dreams

On my table in Ramallah
There are unfinished letters
And pictures of old friends
The manuscript of a young poet from Gaza
An hourglass
And opening lines that flap in my head like wingsِ

I want to memorize you like that song in first grade
The one I hold onto
Complete and
With no mistakes
The lisp, the tilt of the head, off key
The small feet pounding the concrete so eagerly
The open palms pounding the benches.

They all died in the war
My friends and classmates
Their little feet
Their eager little hands… they still pound the floors of each room
They pound the tables;
And still pound the pavements, the backs of the passersby, their shoulders.
Wherever I go
I see them
I hear them.
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