Three Poems by Philip Metres


Uprooted Olive (for Emad Burnat)

the margin is not the margin
to the margin / the central drone

trails a sound like a lawnmower
mowing down the sky / you look up

the legal precedence for seizure
stand with fellahin & land

in prison / in the margin to turn
is to turn inside / out

beyond the din of congratulation
your every move a body’s scrawl

across the white lawn of law
the wall of muteness / if departure

then turn to depths / roots
like fingers / claim horizon


The Politics of Translation

when Naji was sentenced & buried
in parentheses / when she saw her house

slowly becoming debris / Naji’s old mother
went into a comma / she was driven

by ambulance / dashes to ashes /
pupils to colons / the new revised standard

replacing the old revised standard
replacing the King’s version & so on

outside the house not-yet not-house
a nightingale offered quotation marks

around the bulldozer’s boring
exclamations of / instant ancient ruins

footnote to a lengthy dissertation
on subject-object relations


Ismail and Abla Khatib, Who Donated their Murdered Son’s Organs to the Enemy

your body full / of fragments / hallowed be thy brain
spilled over your clothes / you / already not

of this world / in the shadow of our difficult / we plant
your heart inside / a teenaged girl you will

never touch / liver we bury / in a baby you will
never raise / elderly you’ll never be / kidneys

we resettle in alien skin / your lungs now breathe
for two who could not breathe without you

we know your toy gun looked / death
in the eye but why / did they have to shoot you

twice / & now inside “the enemy” you rise
behind the lines of inside / you live

& see for yourself what none of us can see
ourselves / ourselves from the outside


Philip Metres is the author of Sand Opera (2015), A Concordance of Leaves (2013), abu ghraib arias (2011), and To See the Earth (2008), etc. A two-time recipient of the NEA and the Arab American Book Award, he is professor of English at John Carroll University.

Photo by Tanya Habjouqa.