‘She Stretched Out Her Hand’: A Translator’s Tribute to Mourid Barghouti

I could see the movements of the shoulders, the knees, and the feet. The poems of this collection are something like tributes: to his wife Radwa Ashour, to his family, to Mahmoud Darwish, and even to trees. And I was enchanted by how he portrayed it, how he built a whole story, and how he mentioned every little detail of the dabke dancer. *

She Stretched Out Her Hand

Dust-covered, barefoot, sitting in the dirt

among the rows of tattered tents

in front of her, a plate passed out after a long wait,

from an aid committee:

a lick of soup on her nose

a piece of bread in her hand. Instantly, Mourid became one of my favorite authors. So it was only natural that I read his last poetry collection “استيقظ كي تحلم” (Wake Up to Dream) after it came out in 2018. She blogs at   shaimaaabolebdah.wordpress.com/. Years later, I read “رأيت رام الله” (I Saw Ramallah) and “ولدت هناك، ولدت هنا” (I Was Born There, I Was Born Here). She has published in   ArabLit Quarterly. A three- or four-year-old girl

whose people drowned in that sea

stretched out her right arm

toward the tall journalist

as if pointing out a star

to offer him a slice of bread

assuming, like her, he hadn’t eaten in three days. She holds a Master of Social Sciences and Humanities in Comparative Literature with an emphasis on fantasy literature. This translation is my humble tribute to the late poet whose words shall live on in our hearts. مدّت يدها

،مغبرّةً، حافيةً، جالسةً على التراب

بين صفوف الخيام التي بدا عليها الاهتراء

أمامها صحنٌ وزّعته بعد طول انتظار

إحدى لجانِ الإغاثة

على أنفها لحسةٌ من الحِساء

.وفي يدها بعض رغيف

اقترب منها مصور أجنبيّ

ليلتقط صورة تلخّص بؤسَ المخيّم

وتعجبُ رئيس التحرير ما وراء البحر

الطفلةُ ذات السنوات الثلاث أو الأربع

التي مات أهلها في ذلك البحر

مدّت ذراعها اليمنى على آخرها

نحو الصحفيّ الطويل القامة

كأنها تشير إلى نجمة

لتطعمه قطعةَ خبزْ

.ظانّةً أنه، مثلها، لم يأكل منذ ثلاثة أيام


Shaimaa Abulebda is a Palestinian writer and translator. I was reading “غمزة” (“A Wink”) from his “قصائد مختارة” (Selected Poems), and I was fascinated by how Mourid managed to give such a sense of movement to his words. Mourid Barghouti (1944 – 2021) was a   prolific and beloved Palestinian poet and writer, and the husband of Egyptian novelist Radwa Ashour. It was as if the scene had materialized before my eyes. One of the poems that stuck with me was “Maddat Yadaha.” The reality of the poem hit me hard. ‘She Stretched Out Her Hand’: A Translator’s Tribute to Mourid Barghouti

By Shaimaa Abulebda

My first memory of reading a poem by Mourid Barghouti (1944-2021) goes back to the tenth grade. A foreign photographer approaches

to take a photo that will sum up the misery of the camp

and catch the eye of the editor-in-chief beyond the sea. It is horrifying that when you read it; you immediately think “this must have happened to many Arab children!” When I was thinking about Mourid a short while ago, this poem came up to mind, so I decided to translate it.