Thursday Poem

Fooling The Killers

I wonder now
where you are….
I haven’t forgotten you
after all these years,
long as the graveyard
wall is long. I always
ask the grass of the field
about you, and the dirt paths.

Are you alive,
with your poise,
your cane, and memories?
Did you marry?
Do you have a tent of your own,
and children?
Did you make it to Mecca?
Or did they kill you
at the foot of the Hill of Tin?

Or maybe you never grew up,
Qasim, and managed to hide,
behind your mere ten years,
and you’re still the same old Qasim,
the boy who runs around
and laughs
and jumps over fences,
who likes green almonds
and searches for birds’ nests.

But even if they did it,
if, shamelessly,
they killed you,
I’m certain
you fooled your killers,
just as you managed
to fool the years.
For they never discovered
your body at the edge of the road,
and didn’t find it
where the rivers spill,
or on the shelves
at the morgue,
and not on the way to Mecca,
and not beneath the rubble.

As no one saw you
concealing your corpse,
so no one will ever set eyes on you,
and no earthly breeze
encounter a bone of your body,
a finger of your hand,
or even a single shoe
that might fit you.
Qasim, you fooled them.


I always envied you, Qasim,
your skill at hiding
in the games of hide-and-seek we played—
barefoot at dusk—forty years ago—
when we were little boys.


by Taha Muhammad Ali
from Never Mind: Twenty Poems and a Story
© 1973,
translation: Peter Cole, 2000
publisher: Ibis Editions