The men didn’t ask God for anything, not openly, except for health and His protection. But God wasn’t fooled, not in the midseventies. He kept an eye on their hopes, which stirred as they sipped their tea.
He watched the men leaving their homes, hands tucked behind their backs, clutching the hopes that were never spoken aloud, not even during evening prayer: let brick walls replace the earthen walls, let there be electricity instead of gas, may the first color TV be no less than twenty inches.
They may not have meant to deceive God, but He was not pleased.
When one built an addition, it smelled like burning gasoline—like rooms made for nightmares, with no angels climbing down the ladders, with a roof always under construction. One of them went to Iraq, where he died in a war others watched in full color.
Then one day the electricity arrived, just as they had hoped, and those who remained in the village strung up lanterns to guide the mourners to the place of mourning.
Translated from Arabic by Robyn Creswell
The whole poem can be seen in Paris Review, Summer 2015