This poem is taken from Stand 223, 17(3) September - November 2019.

Yousif M. Qasmiyeh Poem
What remains of the camp when the name dies?

In the blink of the eye, its fleeting fluttering, the afternoon eyelid in its ghostly sleep. In bed, a mass of flesh, intervals of moans. Hair still veiled and still hair. Escaping greyness and air. Hands by her side, sulking, like sullen widows. Tablets for heart conditions and life seeping through the seam. Wrinkled memories tucked away. Some water in a plastic jug for the odd cough and the house plant. A small window with creaking hinges in the far end leading to life.

I return to see her guarding the threshold and the door, hesitant eyes, as quivering as the electrical cables in the camp.

The camp has its truth, the untruth of the dialect – the witness, the dissipation of all utterances, the battered pictures on its walls, the wailing with every death and every birth.

What we see in the camp will never be completely seen.

Only the past is active in Arabic.

To the camp we vow. To the camp and nothing else. With the severed right hand. With the limbs that were.  

Are you the gods of time or the calves of fire?

On the edge of the camp are women, draped in black, bartering their time for a sighting of God.

My brother once saw the gravedigger sobbing over the broken handle of his shovel.

The dialect, wherein lies a camp.

The possessive, the intimate of no one?

The face that cannot see the face is its witness.

Witnessing and killing are analogous. Both acts betray silence in an attempt to live in the other’s throat.  

What remains of the camp when the name dies?

They burn reeds with reeds, and turn the sound to incense and incense to sound, and when the fire wanes on the slope, they rummage in the ash in search of sound.
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