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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.

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