Impossible Grace


At Herod's gate
I heap flowers in a crate

Poppies, moist lilies-
It's dusk, I wait.


Wild iris -
The color of your eyes before you were born

That hard winter
And your mother brought you to Damascus gate.


My desire silent as a cloud,
It floats through New gate

Over the fists
Of the beardless boy-soldiers.


You stopped for me at Lion's gate,
Feet wet with dew

From the torn flagstones
Of Jerusalem.


Love, I was forced to approach you
Through Dung Gate

My hands the color
Of the broken houses of Silwan.

At Zion's gate I knelt and wept. 
An old man, half lame -

He kept house in Raimon's cafe,
Led me to the fountain.


At Golden gate,
Where rooftops ring with music,

I glimpse your face.
You have a coat of many colors - impossible grace.


الرحمة المستحيلة


عند باب الساهرة
أكوم زهورا في سحارة
شقائق النعمان والزنبق الرطب
وصلت فترة الغسق فانتظرت

السوسن البري
لون عيونك قبل أن تولد
وذلك الشتاء القاسي
عندما اتت بك امك الى باب العمود

طافت رغبتي الصامتة كالسحابة
عبر باب الجديد.
فوق قبضات
الجنود اليافعين الملساء

توقفت لتنتظرني عند باب الاسباط
وقدماك مبللان بالندى
من أحجار


حبي، اضطررت أن اتي اليك عبر
باب المغاربه
ويدايا مصبوغة بلون
بيوت سلوان المدمرة


عند باب الاسباط ركعت وبكيت
وقادني الرجل العجوز الاعرج
الساكن في قهوة ريمون
الى النافورة

وعند الباب الذهبي
حيث تملأ الموسيقى الاجواء
لمحت وجهك
لديك معطف ملون بألوان كثيرة – الرحمة المستحيلة

About The Poem

"Impossible Grace," a poem written by Distinguished Professor Meena Alexander (English, Women's Studies Certificate Program), has inspired the first Al-Quds Composition Award, to be presented by the newly established College of Music at Al-Quds University, a Palestinian institution of higher learning with campuses in Jerusalem, Abu Dis, and al-Bireh.

Alexander wrote "Impossible Grace" while she was 2011 poet in residence at East Jerusalem's Al-Quds University. "I was haunted by divisions in this city of golden stone and prayers, and the fact that some of the gates are shut to people, and all the soldiers there," Alexander said, referring to ancient gates in Old Jerusalem, and Israel's constant military presence. "And the almost impossible light that edges it all, the mystical Jerusalem..." 



More Info

These poems were first published as a limited edition chapbook Impossible Grace, Jerusalem Poems by The Center for Jerusalem Studies, Al Quds University.

Except for 'The Task' all poems appear in Meena Alexander Birthplace with Buried Stones (TriQuarterly Books/ Northwestern University Press, 2013) c. Meena Alexander 2013. 

Poem with Blue Agapanthus a later publication appears in the online journal Warscapes (2014).