Ear of Wheat

Ear of wheat arches
over the pitfalls of the dark
listening keenly to voices
gone by, to calls
drifting from afar, 

ear of wheat bends
silent with weight
in front and back
silent with our weight of hours
with no before
with no after
and all around nothing
but the curt jitters and shivers in sun,

ear of wheat tosses in wind
sweating in calm
in narrow straits
teeming with yet far-reaching length and width,
golden ear laden
up to the highest prominence
and, unaware,
through the petals of the night
the only friend of man
plowing through the evening,
of woman carrying the morning in her arms. 

by Reja-e Busailah

The Poetry Centre has launched its International Poetry Competition for 2020! We’re delighted to say that our judge this year is the Forward Prize-winning poet Fiona Benson. As always, we have two categories: Open and English as an Additional Language. The winners in each receive £1000, with £200 for the runners up. The deadline for entries is 14 September. For more details and to enter, visit our website.

‘Ear of Wheat’ is copyright © Reja-e Busailah, 2019. It is reprinted from Poems of a Palestinian Boyhood (Smokestack Books, 2019) by permission of Smokestack Books.

Notes from Smokestack Books:

In his ninetieth year, Reja-e Busailah looks back in Poems of a Palestinian Boyhood on growing up in a small Palestinian town in the 1930s until the turbulent upheaval of 1948, when over 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes by the Israelis, and the author was forced to join the Death March from Lydda. Although blind since infancy, Busailah recalls with stunning detail a boyhood shaped by disability, education, family and friends, British soldiers and Zionist settlers. Poems of a Palestinian Boyhood is an extraordinary book: unapologetic, unflinching, raw and beautiful. You can find out more about the book on the Smokestack website and read a review of the collection on the website of World Literature Today

Reja-e Busailah was born in Jerusalem in 1929. He was educated in Hebron and at the Al-’Amiriyyah School in Yafa. He studied English at Cairo University and received a PhD in English literature at New York University. For thirty years he taught English at Indiana University. In 1953 he helped found a school for the blind in Kuwait. From 1967 to 1991 he directed the Palestinian children’s charity, Project Loving Care. His books include The Ordeal: Poems of Anguish, Resistance, and Hope (with Dennis Brutus, Ved Vatuk and Tawkiq Zayyad) and We are Human Too: Poems on the Palestinian Condition and In the Land of My Birth (winner of the 2018 Palestinian Book Award for memoir). He lives with his wife in Kokomo, Indiana. Watch Reja-e Busailah read some of his poems on his YouTube channel and find him on Facebook.

Smokestack is an independent publisher of radical and unconventional poetry run by Andy Croft. Smokestack aims to keep open a space for what is left of the English radical poetic tradition in the twenty-first century. Smokestack champions poets who are unfashionable, radical, left-field and working a long way from the metropolitan centres of cultural authority. Smokestack is interested in the World as well as the Word; believes that poetry is a part of and not apart from society; argues that if poetry does not belong to everyone it is not poetry. Smokestack’s list includes books by John Berger, Michael Rosen, Katrina Porteous, Ian McMillan, Steve Ely, Bertolt Brecht (Germany), Gustavo Pereira (Venezuela), Heinrich Heine (Germany), Andras Mezei (Hungary), Yiannis Ritsos (Greece) and Victor Jara (Chile). David Cain’s Truth Street, an epic-poem that is part oral history and part documentary theatre, draws on eye-witness testimonies of the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium Disaster and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2019. You can find Smokestack on Facebook and on Twitter.

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