A Bilingual Poem from Gaza

December 14, 2023
translated by D. P. Snyder
A black and white illustration of a hand emerging from the ground with a string tied to one extended finger that leads to a kite in the sky above
Illustration by fran_kie / Adobe Stock

If I Must Die

If I must die,
you must live
to tell my story
to sell my things
to buy a piece of cloth
and some strings,
(make it white with a long tail)
so that a child, somewhere in Gaza
while looking heaven in the eye
awaiting his dad who left in a blaze —
and bid no one farewell
not even to his flesh
not even to himself —
sees the kite, my kite you made, flying up above,
and thinks for a moment an angel is there
bringing back love.
If I must die
let it bring hope,
let it be a story.

Si he de morir

Si he de morir
tú has de vivir
pa’ contar mi historia
pa’ vender mis cosas
pa’ comprar un trozo de tela
y unos cordeles,
(hazla blanca con una larga cola)
pa’ que un niño en alguna parte de Gaza
al mirar el ojo del cielo
mientras espera a su padre que partió en una llamarada—
y no se despidió de nadie
ni siquiera de su propia carne,
ni siquiera de sí mismo—
vea tu cometa, la cometa que me hiciste,
volando en lo alto
y piense por un instante
que ahí está un ángel
devolviéndole el amor.
Si he de morir
que inspire esperanza
que sea una historia.

Translation into the Spanish

Editorial note: English text reprinted by permission of Yousef Aljamal. Translation copyright © 2023 by D. P. Snyder. Dr. Alareer’s edited volume, Gaza Writes Back, appeared on Yousef Khanfar’s “Palestine Bookshelf” in conjunction with the Summer 2021 Palestine Voices issue of WLT, which Khanfar guest-edited.

Courtesy of the Palestinian Information Center / Wikipedia

Refaat Alareer (1979–2023) was a professor of world literature and creative writing at the Islamic University of Gaza and the editor of Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine (2013). He was killed by an IDF airstrike on December 6, 2023, along with his brother, nephew, his sister, and three of her children.

Photo by Paul Brauns

D. P. Snyder is a bilingual writer, translator, critic and member of the editorial board at Reading in Translation. Among her published works are Meaty Pleasures (2021), selected stories by Mónica Lavín (Mexico), and Arrhythmias, arrhythmic essays by Mexican writer Angelina Muñiz-Huberman, forthcoming in November 2022 from Literal Publishing and Hablemos, escritoras.