Translator’s Note: Hiba Abu Nada was a novelist, poet, educator, and nutritionist. Her novel Oxygen is Not for the Dead won the Sharjah Award for Arab Creativity in 2017. She held a BA in Biochemistry and an MA in Clinical Nutrition from the Islamic University and Al-Azhar University in Gaza, both of which have been destroyed by Israeli strikes. The following are translations of five poems she posted on Facebook after the October 7 Israeli invasion. She was killed in her home in south Gaza by an Israeli raid on October 20, 2023. Hiba was thirty-two years old.

Oct. 8th 2023

dark is the city night apart from the missiles’ glow,
silent apart from the bombardment,
terrifying apart from the reassurance of prayers,
black apart from the light of martyrs.
goodnight gaza.

 

Oct. 12th 2023                 

whole family trees falling,
no members left, no branches.
the tree & everything to it falls
heartrendingly
& gaza turns into a wasteland.

the city an open cemetery stretching
from the arab league’s doorstep
to the united nations’ podiums.

we submit ourselves to god
& stare at our graves
silent and heavyhearted.

 

Oct. 15th 2023

we are building another city on high:
doctors without sick patients or blood,
teachers without overcrowded classes or disruptive students,
new families without pain or grief,
photojournalists taking pictures of heaven,
& poets writing about eternal love.
they’re all from gaza,
all of them.
in heaven
there’s a new gaza without siege
forming now.

Oct. 18th 2023

our family photos:
body bags of dismembered body parts,
a pile of ashes,
five shrouds of varying sizes laid side by side.
family photos are different in gaza:
together they were
together they departed
together.

 

Oct. 19th 2023

my friends list becoming smaller,
turning into little coffins scattered
here and there.
i fail
to catch them
strewn amid a barrage of rockets.
i can’t bring them back,
i can’t offer my condolences
& i can’t weep.

o god
what do we do
o god
before this banquet table of death
stretching.
no icon here
to undo this,
not even virtually . . .

To read previously published poems by Hiba, please follow these links:
ArabLit
, “Our Loneliness,” tr. Salma Harland
Arablit, “Not Just Passing,” tr. Huda Fakhreddine
Protean, “I Grant You Refuge,” tr. Huda Fakhreddine

Salma Harland

Salma Harland is a British-Egyptian literary translator who works between Arabic and English. She was a 2022 Virtual Travel Fellow with the American Literary Translators Association; a recipient of one of the Dutch Foundation for Literature’s 2023 Translation Grants. She was longlisted for the 2022-23 John Dryden Translation Prize. Her translations have appeared in The Massachusetts ReviewModern Poetry in TranslationArabLit QuarterlyPoetry London, and elsewhere.

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