Zulaikha Abu Risha



Zulaikha Abu Risha is a Jordanian poet, short story and children’s literature writer, critic, researcher, columnist, and human rights and women’s rights activist. She has published a number of studies in feminist criticism, gender, and language in prestigious Jordanian and Arab newspapers and journals, in addition to hundreds of articles on different topics, including cultural issues, women’s issues, public freedoms, political reformation, democratic transition, socio-political concerns, and religious thought. Recently she has collaborated with a small number of Arabic linguists to establish a new field in Arabic language, namely “feminist, or gender, language criticism.” She has published two books in this field: her pioneering work, The Absent Language: Towards a Gender-Neutral Language (1996), and The Language Female: Papers on Discourse and Gender (2009). Zulaikha chairs or serves as a member of local, Arab and international organizations. She has participated in numerous local, Arab, and international poetry, cultural, educational, and feminist festivals and conferences. She has published nine poetry collections, including: Water Gypsies (1999), The Priestess’s Hymns and Feathers’ Commandments (2000), All Consuming Love (2008), In Praise of the Beautiful One (2008), and The Notebook of Scent (2010). Her children’s books include: The Two Diamonds (1986), The Story of the Pepper (1990), Ahmed is Sorry, Mamma (1993), and To Whom does the Sweet Voice Belong? (1994). In 2003 she published a critical study, Towards a Theory of Children’s Literature.

Zulaikha Abu Risha’s poems are translated from the original Arabic into English by poet and translator Nizar Sartawi.


Other Details

As though you’ve grabbed the devils in your hand
and stuffed them in
my breast!!

It matters not that all of a sudden you appear to me in
the dark

if for my sake you’ll pluck out all the trees in
your way
and line them all up at my door…

I then
can fancy you without a forthcoming
hanging down upon your arms
as though it were a life resembling a plain scarf devoid
of laces on the hems
What is with you trembling like a novice

although you have not gotten into the ritual

As though you’ve captured a pack of wolves
and hurled them
upon my heart…!!

Is that love??

My Books

These books are my foster mothers
I’ve chosen them since childhood like a needle in a thicket
to mend my dresses when they’re torn
and stitch my little timid dreams
before they take courage to fly

I am the daughter of these yellow, green, and white pages
I’ve grown on their margins out of fear of the meaning in a text
that was so strict like the equator sun.

a text I entered so cautiously that it may not be stained with mud from my sandals
in which I walked on the banks of the rainy myths.
and that I may not bring a wild cyclone like myself from distant lands

These books that wrapped my childhood nudity
are now draping my old age with an thin scarf of kindness
resembling pastoral singing
but in the savanna of grandmothers

That Lost Smell of Yours

Your smell is always neutral in my head.
Not like a loaf of bread just out of the
Not like the smell of the moon, for instance, that has relieved herself of her
Not like that which blows from the summer towards
Perhaps it resembles the color of narcissus
that lost smell of yours……………
or resembles the wide distances we haven’t crossed
Perhaps it’s busy with new suggestions
about love.

The natural smell of your grief……………


A tyrannical Seduction

I know you are a well-known grove
a river splits you into night and day
and life in you is a tyrannical seduction
that testifies everyday
against my burning blood!


On Shadow And What Has Been Said Of It

For Amin Nakhla

– Says the queen to her shadow:
O page
Hold the hem of my dress lest it sweeps
the stars
my people have thrown
at my feet.

– Says the tree to him:
I’ve stretched you as a carpet
Be worthy
of people in love.

– Says the wall:
Stay close to me lest you get lost in the crowded

– Says the soldier:
Fear not
I will defend you.

– Says the snake:
You and I are two
We will confront the dragon.

– Says the needle:
Come, I will sew something for you to cover your nudity.

– Says the pencil:
Away from my sheet
I have a jealous heart.

– Says the rose to her shadow:
You’re a rose like me
But where’s your fragrance?

– Says the solitary woman:
Cling closer to me
Even though you’re but a shadow.

– Says the frustrated woman:
Get away from me please
I’m weary of your barren presence

– Says the book to his shadow:
See how you’re treaded upon
while I am kept in cabinets.

– Says the woman in love:
O how compassionate he is!!
Has he sent you to cheer me up??

– Says the slave to her shadow:
I thought I was alone in this misery!!

– Says the house to her shadow:
Get inside… Get inside
There is a smell of dissension and fighting outside

– Says the stingy man to his shadow:
Thank God you do not have a mouth to eat

– Says the bourgeois woman to her shadow:
Make yourself useful at least once…
my feet.

– Says the only daughter looking at her shadow:
Mom has begotten a sister for me
she has not spoken as yet.

– Says the sound:
O how lonely I am!!
No shadow for a companion.



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