Abd el-Hadi Fights a Superpower


In his life
he neither wrote nor read.
In his life he
didn’t cut down a single tree,
didn’t slit the throat
of a single calf.
In his life he did not speak
of the New York Times
behind its back,
didn’t raise
his voice to a soul
except in his saying:
“Come in, please,
by God, you can’t refuse.”


Nevertheless —
his case is hopeless,
his situation
His God-given rights are a grain of salt
tossed into the sea.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury:
about his enemies
my client knows not a thing.
And I can assure you,
were he to encounter
the entire crew
of the aircraft carrier Enterprise,
he’d serve them eggs
sunny-side up,
and labneh
fresh from the bag.

Born in rural Galilee, Taha Muhammad Ali was left without a home when his village was destroyed during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948.  Out of this history of shared loss and survival, he has created art of the first order.  In this film, Muhammad Ali reads his poem “Abd el-Hadi Fights a Superpower” in Arabic and then Peter Cole reads his English translation from So What: New & Selected Poems 1971-2005.   This film is an excerpt from the DVD-book In Person: 30 Poets filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, edited by Neil Astley, which includes four poems from So What read by Taha Muhammad Ali with Peter Cole.  For more details go to: <www.bloodaxebooks.com/titlepage.asp?isbn=1852248009>.  See, also, Adina Hoffman, “The Place Itself” (The National, 27 February 2009).