Poetry is Guilty
(translation by Shoshana Olidort)

for Dareen Tatour1

She shouldn’t have written

If only she’d written
about the struggles of the trees,
if only she’d made use of metaphors
of sunset and silence,
if only she’d explained that these were just poetic exercises
and submitted a corrected draft to the court,
if only she’d demonstrated that a poem never
has a final version,
if only she’d declared that a poem has a writer and a speaker
and that the writer does not always agree with the speaker,
if only she’d mentioned that she once heard
that the best poets started writing poetry
in order to woo girls
but that poems don’t help with wooing boys,
if she’d whispered
that if the judge deciding her sentence
doesn’t know the language of the poem
and if the prosecutor demanding her punishment
doesn’t know the language of the poem
it’s because poetry has no language
but she shouldn’t have written
poems. Many verdicts
must be written,
many sentences
to ease the aches of the world.

1 Dareen Tatour is a Palestinian poet and activist and citizen of Israel who was convicted for incitement to violence by an Israeli court in 2015, on the basis of several social media posts. Click here for more information.

Almog Behar is a poet, novelist, translator, editor and critic. He teaches in the Literature Department at Tel Aviv University. He has published six books, the latest being Kdey She-Hamelach Yitpazer al Ha-Ahava (Rub Salt into Love, 2021). His novel Chahla ve-Hezkel (Rachel and Ezekiel, 2010) was translated into Arabic by Nael el-Toukhy and published in Cairo in 2016. He lives in Jerusalem.

Shoshana Olidort is a writer, translator, and critic. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Asymptote, the Cortland Review, the Columbia Journal, Jewish Currents, the Laurel Review, LitHub, Public Books, the Times Literary Supplement, and World Literature Today, among other outlets. She holds a PhD in comparative literature from Stanford University and is the web editor for the Poetry Foundation.