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THREE PALESTINIAN BOYS

English-language poem by authors of Arab heritage (14–18), judged by poet Naomi Shihab Nye

 

Winner

"Three Palestinian Boys" by Marwan Kassab

Three Palestinian boys I see
But I can feel just two not three
Perhaps something is wrong with me
Because in the boys in front of me
There is always one extra he

You see,
Three Palestinian boys left home;
The only survivors.
They were all alone.
Their house now just a mass of stone;
Another tragedy they were shown

They were their father's big clothing,
Yet they weren't grown.
They were young
But their eyes no longer shone.

They were three Palestinian boys
Covered in soot;
Three little stems
Ripped out of root
By guns and bombs
And men in suits.

Three Palestinian boys
Had no food
And if you look at their feet
They were barefoot.

Three Palestinian boys
Can't cry.
Their tears were eaten by gas
Or drunk when there was no water nearby
And before they could even say goodbye,
The oldest one was shot to die.

Two Palestinian boys
Lose a brother.
His father imprisoned
And he joins his deceased mother.

He died before crossing the border
And the sky swept when they told her
For it did not matter if he was strong or older,
He wasn't much bigger than a toddler.

And the sky's tears
Just left his body colder.

Three Palestinian boys
One dead,
Left in the streets
With a bullet to his head.
Three Palestinian boys under the moon:
The remaining two
Will also leave soon
Stolen by a fingered wind
In the middle of June.

Three Palestinian boys
Were none by noon.

Three Palestinian boys I see
But I can feel just two not three
But when I look into their eyes I see
A third Palestinian boy
And he is me.
My blood and tears
Spill into the red sea.

Three Palestinian boys
Is we.

On "Three Palestinian boys", judge Naomi Shihab-Nye said:

“Poetry has a very particular relationship with the seen and unseen, the visible and invisible worlds. This piece of art and this poem as well examine the mysteries of presence and absence – honoring lives in exile, memories gone missing, erased villages, disappeared children, all the terrible realities which have unfortunately been a legacy for Palestinian (and Syrian, and Iraqi, on and on) precious people.  I was profoundly moved by the spare lines and the jagged occasional (but not too awkward) rhyming. Lines like 'Three Palestinian boys/Were none by noon' were searing in their understatement, yet huge implication. When the speaker says the missing Palestinian boy is himself, the poem really comes in for a landing.  This is a playful poet, even when discussing a terribly somber subject. Humanity’s open heart is turning over terrible realities—what we humans can do to one another.  Somehow the lightness of touch intensifies the pain.”

The Barjeel Poetry Prize celebrates poetry, in Arabic and English, that opens a worldwide conversation with 20 selected Arab artworks from the Barjeel Art Foundation. This is one of the 12 poems that won first and second place in the inaugural Barjeel Poetry Prize 2020, judged by distinguished poets. Click here for more information about the Prize at Barjeel Art Foundation's website.

Contributor
Nour Salama

Nour Salama is a creative and aspiring young writer who enjoys walks under the moonlight, embroidery, making art and writing poetry while watching the sunrise. Writing to make all the crazy concepts in her yarn ball of a brain reality, she has publications in multiple literary journals, in hopes to share those thoughts with the world and hopefully to create a positive change with her words, no matter how small. When she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out with friends, creating or self-projecting on fictional characters. 

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<span style="caret-color: #555555; color: #555555; font-family: adelle-sans, sans-serif;">Nour Salama</span><span style="caret-color: #555555; color: #555555; font-family: adelle-sans, sans-serif;"> </span><span style="caret-color: #555555; color: #555555; font-family: adelle-sans, sans-serif;">is a creative and aspiring young writer who enjoys walks under the moonlight, embroidery, making art and writing poetry while watching the sunrise. Writing to make all the crazy concepts in her yarn ball of a brain reality, she has publications in multiple literary journals, in hopes to share those thoughts with the world and hopefully to create a positive change with her words, no matter how small. When she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out with friends, creating or self-projecting on fictional characters. </span>

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