The Muezzin’s Prayer — an Englishing of a poem by Tamer Massalha

[This poem was written in Hebrew by Tamer Massalha, & was translated by him into Arabic. I found it on Facebook, where it was shared  by my friend Ayala Shalev, who also wrote a very moving status about her experience of reading the poem with a group of Jewish & Arab adults who meet together regularly to discuss matters relating to their shared life in Israel in Palestine.  I’ve also translated that status, & it can be read here.]

The Hebrew original, as posted by Ayala. The Arabic translation appears below my English translation

The Hebrew original, as posted by Ayala. The Arabic translation appears below my English translation

The Muezzin’s Prayer / Tamer Massalha

A voice that sounded like the Muezzin’s praying
called to me between the words of my poem:
Who is it that’s there?
It’s me, Imam, I replied to the prayer,
Your son who’s lost in the web of Hebrew,
who suffers from its curvings and its lack of will
to carry my pain for me.
But who is it that shackled Arabic to you, my son?
And why will you sing in a foreign tongue?
Who is that tore the word from the place
and exiled the Arabic melody?
I replied, my voice a choking rupture in my throat,
The Naqba, Imam.
It was the Naqba that expelled my language
to beyond the border,
and since then, my father, I’ve been tracking my pain
in the foreignness of the Hebrew language.
And how do you lament, my son?
How do you lament? the prayer’s voice asked pityingly.
I wait for the darkness of night, my father,
like an illegal inhabitant in his homeland.
like a ghost that steals in at a checkpoint,
like a food-smuggler in the tunnels of Gaza,
like a worker marching to his daily bread,
like a terminal patient on a stretcher in a line
like a husband and wife waiting for a permit at the Wall,
for a moment of family unification.
And when all the poets of the Hebrew language are sleeping,
my father,
quietly… quietly… my dear father
I gather from their poems the loveliest threads of language,
weave from them the flag of my homeland
and hang it, every night anew,
high…
high
on an electricity pole.

tamer muezzin arab

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