With a third eye, I see the catastrophe

By Yousif M. Qasmiyeh, University of Oxford and Refugee Hosts 

[I write the secret].

On the doorstep, finding her way to the seeds that escaped her lap: Like the one who read the book, Son, read my swollen legs, another’s land.

The camp happens in the distance.

With their permission, they disappear. With their permission, they return in hiding.

Ruins endure ruins.

Humming: the well is in the well.

Mother: There is no longer time, and the concealed in its place is its road to the thing. These days, her days are strange. The evenings are stranger. From the uttered to its evidence, she loosens the cross’s crux to hang her headscarf.

The disease is not yet here. Alongside our heavy hearts, we have what will be: flour, beads of yeast, whole and crushed lentils, potatoes, their red soil to nurture escaping blessings in dryness.

I do not follow he who thinks well of time.

I grew old and the camp before me is the purest of ageing.

The father, late in his imagination, is also the infinite gratitude to death’s eloquence in prioritising the prioritised.

In the camp, we arrive not. Nor do we remain. In ailment we only remember ailment.

With blessings without name, they resume wailing, each from the throat and all from the camp.

An ailment – as though it were a mouth inside a mouth.

What does a disease have for us to die?

Hastening death does in no means suffice to repel death from the face. Whoever will die in this instant, is already dead, but for death to survive interpretations it delays its own.

I repeat: Cursed is the complete in the flesh.

Camp, awake! Not for the innate deafness in the voice. Awake to see with the eyes of dust the effect of killing in time.

Certain we are in this death, that the sun will never be for us, to see the enormous death.

In this time we remember those who are long gone, not those who will certainly die. In darkness, memory looks at its feet.

Who will inherit the disease in a place that was in the beginning a place?

When the camp falls ill, tomorrow falls ill for its sins.

By tomorrow, by its disavowed promise, we promise the disease what we have of wishes: a camp big enough for death, a camp with fewer deaths.

He who is hardly awake shaves no more. The mirror with severed edges, bartered in shards between the sons, those perched over the shoulders of the almost identical curses, has a new line. From my old grandmother’s mirror, the mirror of her beech closet, the one she bought in the city for the camp, my father in his spare time made us bespoke mirrors for our escaping faces.

As we wait for the disease, in echoless rooms, doors locked up, shutters dusted, thrust to the heart… The disease that will sign a pact with our diseases. In patience bereft of patience, we stand still behind our walls: without seeing, we shall see the disease that will be.

To my parents: When this is over, leave the dusk incomplete in its time and return, with fewer limbs, to your non-existent pastures.

With a third eye, I see the catastrophe.


Featured image: Permanently shut windows in Baddawi Camp, N. Lebanon. (c) E. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, December 2019.

Read, and listen, to more poetry by Yousif by visiting our Creative Archive, or by visiting his contributor’s page here.


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