Hanan Ashrawi: Metamorphosis
Contributed by Toine Van Teeffelen on 28.05.2006:
Ramallah, June 10, 1989
The Day Yasser was shot his mother turned
to stone; draped with the flag, his makeshift shroud,
she held her ground at the deserted town
square. Each chilly dawn she clutched a torch
of modest flowers – jasmine, daisies, and roses
from her garden – while bewildered soldiers
driving by, returning from their night shift, wondered
at the mist-clad apparition vaguely
reminiscent of a statue somewhere.
The night before Raja was shot the lights
went out, his mother lit a lamp muttering
in anger at her superstitious fear
of omens. A hastily painted name on the Martyr’s
Wall, next day, unraveled his substance before
her very eyes, and she reached out and touched his absence.
Carved out, hollowed/hallowed in her dark-filled womb
she turned and shed what little remained and calmly
transformed herself into a night vision.
Born in Jerusalem, Hanan Ashrawi has been professor of English Literature and Dean of Arts at Birzeit University during the 1970s and -80s. In the late 1980s she was involved in the political negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian leadership and became known as spokeswoman for the Palestinian delegation during the talks in Madrid and Washington. At present she is Minister of Higher Education in the Palestinian National Authority. The poem was written during the Intifada.
Source: Salma Khadra Jayyusi (ed.), Anthology of Modern Palestinian Literature, Columbia University Press, New York, 1992.