Secrets of Poetry
As a poet and activist from Southern Syria, my goal is to contribute significantly to the enrichment of literature with a strong emphasis on the reality of war. Thanks to my background in social activism during the war in Syria and ten years of work as a medical technician in a women’s prison, I am in a unique position to convey exactly how war has impacted children and prisoners in Syria. I continue to believe passionately in the need for art and education to help humanity recover from this traumatic period. Despite being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, I have found solace in continuing to write, and I believe fervently in literature’s power to heal both writer and reader.
Poetry is a child
What the grown-
ups have said…
Hasn’t any home,
Hasn’t any answers
Poetry is a child
Thinking about the sweetness
Look what she does with it…
Poetry is a child
Trying to catch the moment
To become light.
Poetry is the first step of our communication with life, it’s the first movement that helps us concentrate on our existence. it’s a bird always trying to fly, sometimes it gets what it needs, sometimes it falls down with questions, sometimes it dies and then comes back to life.
Poetry is the first emotion we have to understand that we are here.
This emotion is full of contradiction, full of happiness and sadness, and full of our humanity.
Poetry is the first question to build up our philosophy and grow up our sciences.
Although we have been forgetting what we are doing in our journey on earth, we still believe that poetry will help us to survive – do you think that?
Poetry is weaker than that, and stronger than what we believe in.
Poetry has no hands or feet, it’s not a man, it’s a bird, and we hide it in the darkness inside of us, and when all the tracks are in darkness, we ask it to show the way.
Do you believe in the poetry!
Do you think it’s our survival!
Not at all!
The poetry can do nothing against our ugliness;
if we split into two parts
guess which part is poetry?
Is it our ugliness or our goodness?
Poetry is our strong truth, although it has no ability to fix what we have done.
O poor poetry!
We found you on every wall of the civilizations, you had described the love that is carried by our heart and protected by God.
You described the war that is carried by our weapons protected by our ugliness.
You described our humanity that has been lost in our madness.
We never accepted a lesson from you.
Why we are here, we never thought that you only could ask questions, as long as you never had answers.
Answer us, do we have ability to be a human being, is the human being here on the earth?
O, poor poetry, here we go, we will never learn from what you have been doing for us.
Come and hide yourself in my pages. Once upon a time there were a poets, do you believe they did something?
O, poor poetry, you are a hero, you are still a weak hero.
We still believe in you.
Translated by professor Leri Price
I can walk on water
I am fluent in a language they aren’t
And wonderful secrets are revealed to me
I can sing
My voice walks on water
It reaches the nightingale on the bough
The fish thought it was food and took it to the bottom of the lake
The bird took it to her young and fed them my secret
On I walk
Fluent in all languages
But no one understands me
Surrounded by stone pine and holm oak
Joy overwhelms me
The brook passes in front of me
And I whisper very quietly
I wish to be
I pricked my finger
And a flower dripped crimson
An anemone with roots in love and in pain
I cried, and the earth cried
I promised to buy
Another flower when we grow up
I buried my toy
To have a place for my secrets
I buried my doll
While everyone else was running away
We walked through the forests
Along the train tracks
I saw my toy
In another child’s hand
I said: Give me my doll
He replied: It’s mine, I picked it from the doll tree
It looked like mine
The swallow falls and rises in the sky
We made up a game
We arrange pebbles in two piles
And throw sticks back and forth between them
I didn’t catch a single one,
But every time I reached my hand out
The swallows caught me up
They took me to pick colours from the nape of the sky
And put me back down
The colour turned into an enchanted stick
No one could believe
That whenever I opened my hand
A rainbow flew out
Give me your feet
Take my shoes
My life rolled along and I ran behind it until my back grew bowed
Like a steadfast tree
I pray for those who have rested in my shade
The rest of my body is clouds
Along the path, I am guided by
Like a skylight
I have been eating time
Questions hang signs of inquiry
From my ears
In another world
Free from evil
I look after my soul
Don’t forget to take care of my body.
Kholoud Charaf (Arabic, translated to English) is a poet, art critic, and social activist from Al Mujeimer, Syria. She worked in the medical field for over ten years, where she witnessed severe human rights violations. For trying to bring such practices to light, she was threatened by the authorities. Her poetry has reached an international audience and has been published in Arabic, French, Italian, Polish, Ukrainian, and English. In 2018, she became an ICORN guest writer in Krakow, Poland.