I Grant You Refuge

It is our great honor to publish this translation of “I Grant You Refuge” by Palestinian poet, novelist, and teacher, Hiba Abu Nada. “Refuge” was written on October 10th and is among the last pieces she composed before being martyred by an Israeli airstrike on October 20th. We are beyond grateful to Huda Fakhreddine for her incredible translation from the original Arabic.


Hiba Abu Nada
(trans. Huda Fakhreddine)

I grant you refuge
in invocation and prayer.
I bless the neighborhood and the minaret
to guard them
from the rocket

from the moment
it is a general’s command
until it becomes
a raid.

I grant you and the little ones refuge,
the little ones who
change the rocket’s course
before it lands
with their smiles.

I grant you and the little ones refuge,
the little ones now asleep like chicks in a nest.

They don’t walk in their sleep toward dreams.
They know death lurks outside the house.

Their mothers’ tears are now doves
following them, trailing behind
every coffin.

I grant the father refuge,
the little ones’ father who holds the house upright
when it tilts after the bombs.
He implores the moment of death:
“Have mercy. Spare me a little while.
For their sake, I’ve learned to love my life.
Grant them a death
as beautiful as they are.”

I grant you refuge
from hurt and death,
refuge in the glory of our siege,
here in the belly of the whale.

Our streets exalt God with every bomb.
They pray for the mosques and the houses.
And every time the bombing begins in the North,
our supplications rise in the South.

I grant you refuge
from hurt and suffering.

With words of sacred scripture
I shield the oranges from the sting of phosphorous
and the shades of cloud from the smog.

I grant you refuge in knowing
that the dust will clear,
and they who fell in love and died together
will one day laugh.


Hiba Abu Nada is a novelist, poet, and educator. Her novel Oxygen is Not for the Dead won the Sharjah Award for Arab Creativity in 2017. She wrote this poem on Oct. 10th, 2023. She died a martyr, killed in her home in south Gaza by an Israeli raid on Oct. 20th, 2023. She was 32 years old.

Huda Fakhreddine is Associate Professor of Arabic literature at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a writer, a translator, and the author of several scholarly books.

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