Ghassan Zaqtan

1954 / Beit Jala / Palestine

The Absentee's Song

By morning travelers knocked on her door
but she didn't wake
By noon a bird stirred her
from a book but she didn't wake
And at night a girl came from the orchard
her hair was short
her sleeves filthy
her load of quince
She called out to her dead kin
for seven nights
and seven days
full in count
The girl who knocked on the door at night
was there
with short hair
filthy sleeves
and a crow's sound
The caw awakened
a woman in her thirties
from her death
who said to the little girl:
I gave birth to you in a dream,
you aren't real for us
to love you like other girls,
leave for twenty years
so we can love you
and wait for you,
but don't grow older in the fog
lest we die.
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