In Haifa by the Sea

Salman Masalha

In Haifa by the Sea

(In memory of Emile Habiby)


In Haifa, by the sea, the smells of salt
rise from the earth. And the sun
hanging from a tree unravels wind.
In a row of trees bathed in stone
men, women and silence have been
planted. Tenants in an apartment
block called homeland.
Jews whose voices I haven't heard,
Arabs whose meaning I haven't understood.
And other such melodies I couldn't
identify in the moment that went silent.


There in Haifa, by the sea,
he had them all. Poet, exile
in the wind, seeking the past
in a question blessed with answers.
Pulling words out of the sea and
throwing them back to the waves
that, like Messiah, will return eternally.
A poet has returned to a poem he never wrote
in the night of captivity, and hasn't yet returned
to the place that he drew as a child in a cloud.


There in Haifa, by the sea, at the end
of the summer that broke on the treetop,
a moon unfurled. I return to the
silence I had split with my lips.
I return to the words asleep inside
the paper. Moist clods of earth
and a salty path have forever wrapped
the fisherman's pole. Little
words lay down to rest, and a poem
went silent there in Haifa, by
the sea.


Translated from the Hebrew by Vivian Eden
*
Published in: Haaretz Books, November 2008
***
This poem is from, "In Place" (Am Oved, 2004). It is performed by singer Micha Shitrit on his album “Shilhei Kayitz.”
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For the Hebrew text, press here.


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