Palestinian reading list #1: “Interpretations”

Mourid Barghouti (photo credit Peter Everard Smith)
Mourid Barghouti (photo credit Peter Everard Smith)


I am going to start posting regular selections from some of the Palestinian literature I am reading for my current book project. The first is a poem by Mourid Barghouti, and translated by Radwa Ashour, entitled “Interpretations.” 

Barghouti is a fine poet, but perhaps is best known for his gorgeous memoir I Saw Ramallah. The book opens with Barghouti crossing the Allenby Bridge from Jordan into Palestine in 1996 after a long exile. I followed Barghouti’s footsteps across the same bridge last spring , and plan to begin my new book with that scene.

I had hoped to meet Mr. Barghouti during my last trip to Palestine. He lives in Amman now and I was all ready to cross the border just to speak to him. Alas, I wasn’t able to make it happen.




A poet sits in a coffee shop, writing.

The old lady

thinks he is writing a letter to his mother,

the young woman

thinks he is writing a letter to his girlfriend,

the child

thinks he is drawing,

the businessman

thinks he is considering a deal,

the tourist

thinks he is writing a postcard,

the employee

thinks he is calculating his debts.

The secret policeman

walks, slowly, towards him.