Ghayath Almadhoun is a Palestinian poet born in Damascus, Syria, in 1979, and living in Stockholm since 2008. With the Syrian poet Lukman Derky, he founded Bayt al-Qasid (House of Poetry), a space for freewheeling expression in Damascus.
Almadhoun has published three collections of poetry, the latest in Beirut in 2014. In Sweden, his poetry has been translated and published in two collections, and awarded the Klas de Vylders stipendiefond for immigrant writers.
The following is Almadhoun’s poem The Details. This translation for The Details was originally published in Tripwire Journal.
Do you know why people die when they are pierced by a bullet?
Because 70% of the human body is made up of water
Just as if you made a hole in a water tank.
Was it a random clash dancing at the head of the alley when I passed
Or was there a sniper watching me and counting my final steps?
Was it a stray bullet
Or was I a stray man even though I’m a third of a century old?
Is it friendly fire?
How can it be
When I’ve never made friends with fire in my life?
Do you think I got in the way of the bullet
Or it got in my way?
So how am I supposed to know when it’s passing and which way it will go?
Is an encounter with a bullet considered a crash in the conventional sense
Like what happens between two cars?
Will my body and my hard bones smash its ribs too
And cause its death?
Or will it survive?
Did it try to avoid me?
Was my body soft?
And did this little thing as small as a mulberry feel female in my maleness?
The sniper aimed at me without bothering to find out that I’m allergic to snipers’ bullets
And it’s an allergy of a most serious kind, and can be fatal.
The sniper didn’t ask my permission before he fired, an obvious example of the lack of civility that has become all too common these days.