Mourid Barghouti

1944 / Deir Ghassana / Palestine

Without Mercy

There is a sweet music,
but its sweetness fails to console you.
This is what the days have taught you:
in every long war
there is a soldier, with a distracted face and ordinary teeth,
who sits outside his tent
holding his bright-sounding harmonica
which he has carefully protected from the dust and blood,
and like a bird
uninvolved in the conflict,
he sings to himself
a love song
that does not lie.

For a moment,
he feels embarrassed at what the moonlight might think:
what's the use of a harmonica in hell?

A shadow approaches,
then more shadows.
His fellow soldiers, one after the other,
join him in his song.
The singer takes the whole regiment with him
to Romeo's balcony,
and from there,
without thinking,
without mercy,
without doubt,
they will resume the killing!
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