I Reveal Myself

by Fatena Al-Gharra

Descendant of raiders who landed on the beaches,
heir to the woman who unmanned Samson,
I am the daughter of waves and of memory,
a fresh shoot from ancient stock.

When I open my arms, the universe sets forth.
When I smile, honey wells from my virgin lips.
I take a step and the earth loses its balance.
In my laugh, earthquakes resound,
and volcanoes spurt from seven tectonic plates.

The child of frivolity and modesty,
I am the daughter of depravity and purity,
the progeny of black and white.

The tip of my finger taps the stars off track.
If I close my eyes,
darkness eclipses the world, until my eyelids lift
bathing it in gold.
And when I toss back my hair
the universe shivers in recognition.

I am today and I am tomorrow.
Crowned queen on the throne of space.
A blink, and fields foam green with wheat.
I am wheat itself. I am green.
The first harvest.
The last.

The literal translation of this poem was made by Anna Murison

The final translated version of the poem is by Sarah Maguire

Notes

This was an enormously difficult poem to translate - as is often the case with Arabic poetry. The first stanza in particular was hard to disentangle. A great deal of pooled knowledge in our workshop led us to the understanding that the first line refers to the Philistines, known as the 'sea peoples' who occupied the coast of Palestine. The third line refers to the legend of Samson. We knew from the Bible (the story isn't in the Koran) that Samson was chosen by God to destroy the Philistines (Palestinians). A man with the dangerous combination of boundless strength and a very short temper, after slaughtering countless numbers of Philistines, he falls in love with a 'harlot' called Delilah in Gaza. She is bribed into beguiling him into revealing the secret of his strength: his hair, which she famously cuts while he sleeps, rendering him impotent. Clearly, a powerful image for a woman of Gaza. So, in these opening lines, the poet is identifying herself with the history of the people of Gaza.

Thereafter, Faten employs language usually associated with the Koran to describe herself in a potentially shocking series of statements that, to devout Muslims, could seem blasphemous - though, of course, there's a long history of poets in Arabic (usually men poets) writing in this way.

Comments

  1. January 27th, 2014 at 4:42 am

    Kristen says:

    I would love to see this in arabic, I know this might be asking much but can you email me that?

    The Arabic is available here.

  2. May 6th, 2010 at 3:21 am

    nagapie says:

    I love the languid precision and the invigorating empowerment. 

  3. March 4th, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Norbert Hirschhorn says:

    I agree, it came out beautifully. It is usually said that a camel is a horse built by a committee!  But we must remember how noble, useful, sturdy and faithful camels are.

     

    I wonder what Faten will say of this version.