There are no spaces for life. No place to return. All of Gaza bids farewell to herself every night and congratulates those who remain alive the morning of another day. They inspect their bodies then run their hands over the living. They close their eyes then open them, and once again call the members of their families one by one…so that the memory of their names does not fail and their spirits do not disappear.

—Hedaya Shamun, “I Do Not Wish For You To See Gaza As Anything But a Rose" (translated by Ghada Mourad and Tyson Patros)

How will we return to life its splendor after the bodies of the young are stolen? He carries his body in his hands and needs no coffin. His hands have become a coffin for his child shrouded in white cloth. He walks with his head high and his tears flowing. But he is lucky that he is still alive to pay his child the last honors. Entire families were buried in their homes and no one remained to pay them these last honors.  It is so simple. In this civilized world of international rights and conventions and the right to life and the right to housing and the right to education and the right of expression, these rights are not for Palestinians but for someone else.

—Hedaya Shamun, “I Do Not Wish For You To See Gaza As Anything But a Rose" (translated by Ghada Mourad and Tyson Patros)

Poetry as a way of approaching the world — as the urgent effort — probably futile — to get at something inside or outside through language — or to escape into language as a way to survive a brutal material or psychological world. Somehow language — the effort in the ineffability of words — can save us if we can engage at a deep enough level to get past the pain. That’s then a poem and more than a poem. It’s a mode of living. What we call a poem might not be more than a momentary snapshot of an ongoing life in language — a dislocation, an exile. 

—Norman Fischer, “Poetry as path, as weapon: On Uche Nduka

For a while you’ve been hearing this call from underground, so you dig up my bones, take me out of this black box piece by piece. Yes, darling, refuse to understand death! I think it’s lovely & brave that you’re not giving up on me, that you have it in you to go on being with me after these ten years in the dirt. Touch me, these bones can be enough. Hang my bones from the tree in the yard. When the wind blows, if you want to believe that sound is me talking, then it’s me talking. 

—Lillian Kwok, “Danse Macabre

Lately at night they’d been dreaming. Dreams of Kyustendil—if you could call them dreams. Confused, anxious, unjust dreams. The kind where you keep trying to do something, you struggle for what seems like hours to achieve something important, something beautiful, something that in your dream you know will change your life forever, but in the end you fail. That was the kind of dream they’d been dreaming, unjust dreams. And they woke in terror, bathed in sweat, thinking they could hear the other person’s heart beating even louder than their own.

There were lots of times when he woke up screaming, and Niki would lean over and stroke his forehead his cheeks his chest.

Don’t be scared, she’d say. I’m here. Don’t be scared.

They would lie awake for a long time silently listening to the sounds of the night which was up as late as they were. The crickets and the cicadas. The rustle of the leaves and the sighing sea and all the sounds that frighten a person at night. The creaking of roofbeams, the hum of the fridge, a dripping faucet, something creeping along the floor or wall. Silently they listened to the night speaking around them and their skin crawled.

When day broke, much later, he said to her:

That’s what love is. To have the same dream at the same time on the same night with the person who’s sleeping beside you. Who’d believe it if you told them? The two of us are alone in the world. Even in sleep we’re in love.

She looked at him in the dark, then turned over so as not to see him anymore.

They’re not dreams, they’re nightmares, she wanted to say, but in the end she didn’t say anything.

—Christos Ikonomou, “Piece by Piece They’re Taking My World Away" (translated by Karen Emmerich)

Things are not as easily understood nor as expressible as people usually would like us to believe. Most happenings are beyond expression; they exist where a word has never intruded. Even more inexpressible are works of art; mysterious entities they are, whose lives, compared to our fleeting ones, endure. 

—Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet (translated by Joan Marie Burnham)