Three Poems from Rojava, Syria

translated by Zêdan Xelef & Shook
Taha Khalil, Untitled, acrylic on canvas


And the knife is in your hand
You look just like Abraham, our prophet
I’m your old, old Ishmael.



Late at night
As if I’m a winter sparrow
Your hand draws me from my nest
Your hand closes around me
Something beats in your hand
And the quiver will remind you, for a hundred years.



to Khawla Ghazi

The young man who knelt on the edge of the asphalt
The young man whose hands were tied behind him
The young man who was dreaming of sparrows
Before being shot in the head
Before the murderer finished reciting his verses
A pebble ached beneath his knee
The young man shifted his weight
And prepared for the bullet.

Translations from the Kurmanji & Arabic

Read an interview with Taha Khalif from this same issue.

Taha Khalil is a writer, painter, and intellectual from Syria. Today he hosts a regular television program on Ronahi TV in Qamishlo and is one of the Rojava Centre for Strategic Studies’ three directors.

Displaced from his home by the Islamic State’s attempt to exterminate the Êzîdî, Zêdan Xelef (b. 1995, Izêr) arrived with his family to the Chamishko IDP camp in late 2014. His current projects include translating Whitman’s Song of Myself into Kurmanji.

Shook’s most recent book-length translations include Jorge Eduardo Eielson’s Room in Rome, a finalist for the PEN Award. Their forthcoming books include a new translation of Mario Bellatin’s Beauty Salon and a collection of Spanish-language poetry, Atlas estelar.