Blesok no. 54, May-June, 2007

They Would Love To See Me Dead

Mahmoud Darwish

They Would Love To See Me Dead

They would love to see me dead, so they say: He belongs to us, he is ours.
For twenty years I have heard their footsteps on the walls of the night.
They open no door, yet here they are now. I see three of them:
A poet, a killer, and a reader of books.
Will you have some wine? I asked.
Yes, they answered.
When do you plan to shoot me? I asked.
Take it easy, they answered.
They lined up their glasses all in a row and started singing for the people.
I asked: When will you begin my assassination?
Already done, they said … Why did you send your shoes on ahead to your soul?
So it can wander the face of the earth, I said.
The earth is wickedly dark, so why is your poem so white?
Because my heart is teeming with thirty seas, I answered.
They asked: Why do you love French wine?
Because I ought to love the most beautiful women, I answered.
They asked: How would you like your death?
Blue, like stars pouring from a window—would you like more wine?
Yes, we'll drink, they said.
Please take your time. I want you to kill me slowly so I can write my last
poem to my heart's wife.
They laughed, and took from me
only the words dedicated to my heart's wife.

translated by Munir Akash and Caroline Forché

I Come From There

I come from there and I have memories
Born as mortals are, I have a mother
And a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends,
And a prison cell with a cold window.
Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,
I have my own view,
And an extra blade of grass.
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,
And the bounty of birds,
And the immortal olive tree.
I walked this land before the swords
Turned its living body into a laden table.

I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother
When the sky weeps for her mother.
And I weep to make myself known
To a returning cloud.
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood
So that I could break the rule.
I learnt all the words and broke them up
To make a single word: Homeland….

Rita and the Rifle

Between Rita and my eyes
There is a rifle
And whoever knows Rita
Kneels and pray
To the divinity in those honey-colored eyes
And I kissed Rita
When she was young
And I remember how she approached
And how my arm covered the loveliest of braids
And I remember Rita
The way a sparrow remembers its stream
Ah, Rita
Between us there are a million sparrows and images
And many a rendezvous
Fired at by a rifle

Rita's name was a feast in my mouth
Rita's body was a wedding in my blood
And I was lost in Rita for two years
And for two years she slept on my arm
And we made promises
Over the most beautiful of cups
And we burned in the wine of our lips
And we were born again

Ah, Rita!
What before this rifle could have turned my eyes from yours
Except a nap or two or honey-colored clouds?
Once upon a time
Oh, the silence of dusk
In the morning my moon migrated to a far place
Towards those honey-colored eyes
And the city swept away all the singers
And Rita

Between Rita and my eyes--
A rifle

Psalm Three

On the day when my words
were earth…
I was a friend to stalks of wheat.

On the day when my words
were wrath
I was a friend to chains.

On the day when my words
were stones
I was a friend to streams.

On the day when my words
were a rebellion
I was a friend to earthquakes.

On the day when my words
were bitter apples
I was a friend to the optimist.

But when my words became
flies covered
my lips!…

Translated by Ben Bennani

Psalm 9

O rose beѕond the reach of time and of the senses
O kiss enveloped in the scarves of all the njinds
surprise me njith one dream
that mѕ madness njill recoil from ѕou
Recoiling from ѕou
In order to approach ѕou
I discovered time
Approaching ѕou
in order to recoil form ѕou
I discovered mѕ senses
Betnjeen approach and recoil
there is a stone the size of a dream
It does not approach
It does not recoil
Ѕou are mѕ countrѕ
A stone is not njhat I am
therefor I do not like to face the skѕ
not do I die level njith the ground
but I am a stranger, alnjaѕs a stranger

Address to the SPE 2007

My dear friends,

I was your guest thirty years ago, when Rafael Alberti had the honor of receiving the “Golden Wreath”. I fell in love with your country: the lake, the red roses, and the readers who prove to us that solitude is not the destiny of poets. I was young then, with great dreams. When I grew older I realized that poetry is difficult yet possible, but it cannot change the world. However, it can light little candles in the dark. It is true that poetry is fragile, but it has the strength of silk and the sturdiness of honey. Poets need only believe in the effectiveness of this fragility. The higher the thud of brutality and hatred and war, the greater the need for its antidote: the sound of poetry… to intensify our perception and awareness of our humanity, and to persist with our dream of freedom and peace, and our belief in human commonalities.

I was your guest about thirty years ago, with other poets from all countries and languages: assorted flowers in one single open garden, without a center or a periphery. The concept of universal poetry is defined by the diversity of voices and points of reference. The true identity of poetry lies in its humanity and distinct aesthetics, and its capacity to travel freely amongst cultures and languages: we cannot imprison it within strict national walls. However, poetry does contribute to developing a cultural identity for a people whose identity is under attack, and defies whatever stands in the way of the people’s expression of their uniqueness. The poet cannot escape the “here” and the “now” to another time and place.

It gives me great pleasure to return to this beautiful country, to be honored by receiving your esteemed expression of appreciation of myself and what I represent, and to your noble attention to the intertwining between the personal and the public voice, the individual and the collective, in my poetic experience. I never dreamt of receiving this honor, of accepting your venerated prize: the Golden Wreath, thus joining the register of poets who have been my mentors. I consider it an honor to Arab poetry and an expression of moral support of the right of my country, Palestine, to join the family of free and independent nations.

With my deepest thanks and gratitude
Mahmoud Darwish
29 January 2007

created by