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ISSUE:  Winter 2009

I saw the procession, followed the coffin
like the others, with head respectfully bowed.
I found no reasons to ask them, Who’s this stranger?
Where’d he live? How’d he die?
There are many causes of death,
among them the ache of life.

I asked myself, Does he see us, or does he see
annihilation? Does he regret the end?
I knew that he would not open the coffin,
covered as it was with violets, to say goodbye to us,
to thank us, and to whisper the truth.
(What is the truth?) Perhaps he, like us,
busied himself rolling up his shadow.

But he was the one person who did not lament this morning.
He did not see death hovering over us like a hawk.
The living are the cousins of the dead, and the dead
sleep peacefully, peacefully, peacefully. I found no
cause to ask, Who is the stranger and what is his name?
Twenty walk behind him, apart from myself.

I wondered in my heart at the door of the church:
Was he a writer, a worker, a refugee,
a thief, or a murderer? What is the difference?
The dead are all alike in the face of death.
They do not talk and perhaps do not dream.

Perhaps his funeral is my funeral, but some divine
demand has postponed my death
for many reasons, among them a serious mistake in a poem.

—Translated by Mohammad Shaheen and Amro Naddy


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