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Poem: Assad’s Cataract

Recently, blind Israeli poet Erez Bitton — who reportedly lost his sight at the age of 10 when he found a hand grenade — approached noted translator Tsipi Keller about the possibility of translating some of his work. Among the works was the poem “Assad’s Catarat.” The poem takes as its starting point the fact that Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad trained as an ophthalmologist and embarks upon an ironic examination of the concepts of vision and blindness. It is printed here with the permission of the translator.

Assad’s Cataract

You
who were destined
to be a healer
of extinguished eyes
who strove day and night
to restore damaged corneas
to remove cataracts
from dimmed lenses
to mend cracked retinas

You
who vowed to grant kids
locked in darkness
the glee of tree climbing
the rejoicing in color
in blue in yellow in orange

You
who vowed to grant the elderly
leaning on their canes at dusk
the gift of seeing again
red sunsets—

What are you doing now?
Striking down all corneas
cracking down on all retinas

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