3 Maya Abu Al-Hayyat Translations

By and | 1 August 2021


Penniless I live at a checkpoint,
trifles make me happy,
like when a whole day passes without me
seeing a single soldier,
his bored yawning.
There I write my new novel
about the butcher
who wanted to be a violinist,
mean and vulgar,
his hands failed him, favoured
the sharp glistening blades.
You can imagine how gloomy it can be
to be destitute, penniless,
to live at a checkpoint,
to know happiness
in trifles, skipping a loquacious poet’s turn
in line, or passing wiped out
day labourers with banana sacks
on their backs, guava bags,
and containers of Tnuva milk.
I’m destitute. For years
I’ve been living in a tomb
but have seen neither angel nor devil,
just more than my share of sleepy soldiers.

From You Can Be the Last Leaf by Maya Abu-Alhayyat, translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2022). Translation copyright © 2022 Fady Joudah. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions.


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