“Dead Cats Continue to Meow.” A Poem by Nasser Rabah

“One morning, we didn’t find homes, just heaps of red words piled like dirty clothes on sidewalks...”

December 22, 2023  By Nasser Rabah

Nasser Rabah was born in Gaza in 1963 and continues to live there. Like almost everyone in Gaza during the Israeli assault, he has been displaced and communication has been sporadic. Despite this, a poem of his appeared in Amman, several weeks ago, written and sent on the three percent of battery power left on his phone after a family member had been able to use a solar charger.


“Dead Cats Continue to Meow”

Behind the walls of the grade school, while the students lined up to salute the flag, the younger kids flay cats alive, they hang the furs on tall sticks, they circle around the school with a continuous meow. The parents, who concluded that their kids became cats, sprinkled salt on the neighborhood’s streets to remove the stench of absence, and washed again and again the children’s clothes for a holiday that won’t come.

A blind man listening to a match replay on his radio said to curious runners-by:
don’t hurry, the match ends with the defeat of both teams; but they didn’t get the joke. They stole his radio and left him cursing the politicians. In those days, we didn’t pay attention to the complaints of walls—so much blood was on them, who cares about walls that complain? One morning, we didn’t find homes, just heaps of red words piled like dirty clothes on sidewalks, no one cared about them either; couples, though, continued—and without walls—their usual business, not only that, but they made more kids who flayed more cats inside the school.

The heart doctor treating me now recommends only one thing:
stop writing the diaries of a dead village.


Translated by Emna Zghal, Khaled al-Hilli, and Ammiel Alcalay
for the Brooklyn Translation Collective

Nasser Rabah
Nasser Rabah
Nasser Rabah was born in Gaza in 1963 and continues to live there. He got his BA in Agricultural Science in 1985, before going on to work as Director of the Communication Department in the Agriculture Ministry. He is a member of the Palestinian Writers and Authors Union and has published five collections of poetry, Running After Dead Gazelles (2003); One of Nobody (2010); Passersby with Invisible Clothes (2013); Water Thirsty for Water (2016); Eulogy for the Robin (2020), and a novel, Since approximately an hour (2018). Some of his poems have been translated into English and French.

More Story
The 15 Best Literary Adaptations of 2023 Say what you will about 2023, but the year did bring us some top-notch book-to-screen adaptations, from the long-awaited...

Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.