Ghassan Zaqtan

1954 / Beit Jala / Palestine

The Camp Prostitute

What those intend who visit her house
Is palpably felt
So pure, so proud.

Those who stayed late in the fields
Will find her hanging near the little trees
The five mossy steps
Then the bougainvillea plant by the door.

Her bracelets jingling in their sleep like a phantom horse
Her undergarments coloring their dreams
Her breasts well trodden like the path to the mill
Her ritual movements between the bed and the wash basin
Like a popular song all the rage.

The still life on the wall
The sheets and two pillows
The scent of cheap cologne
The nails behind the door
Where the smell of their clothes still lingers
The jasmine outside the window

The numbed convolutions of her body
The strain pervading her silence

The intentions of those passing through to her house
The passersby and the visitors,
The students, clerks and chickens
The vans, the guards and the dogs,
The porters, the cats and the vegetable sellers
The fathers and sons
All those who have left their smell in her broken sleep
They were all of them there
Behind the kids
The cart
The coffin
So pure, on their way to her destination.

Translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah
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