The Song

Salman Masalha


The Arab’s Speech

Every time I say I’m hungry
a military genius hands me a fishing pole
and sends me to catch some fish in the desert,
but I hook only scales.
And as I don’t drink sand,
I can’t pass my water. Moreover
I suffer from constipation.
And as I am hungry, and truly love life,
I eat my toes, because I so regret
I agreed to go out fishing
in murky sands.

The Jew’s Speech

Every time I say I’m hungry
a political genius sends me to drink
the sea water. Then I pass,
with my water, a fish without scales.
I am unable to dish it up on my table.
It’s strictly banned by religious law.
And as I am hungry, and truly love life,
I throw it back into the sea, where it dies of thirst
for I drank up all its water first.
I laugh out of sorrow, as in my current state
I can’t even die
of laughter.

The Silent Majority’s Speech

Death to the hungry!
Death to the hungry!

The Fish’s Speech

Silence is boring!
Silence is boring!
If you don’t stop,
I won’t talk
and I won’t pass water
any more.

The Poet’s Speech

Enough! When
will this song end?

Translated from Arabic by Vivian Eden with the author

Published in: Modern Poetry in Translation, third series, No. 14 (Polyphony), ed. David & Helen Constantine, Short Run Press, Exeter 2010


For the Arabic text, press here.

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