Saturday, November 04, 2006

Mahmoud Darwish

Identity Card
Mahmoud Darwish

Put it on record
--I am an Arab
And the number of my card is fifty thousand
I have eight childern
And the ninth is due after summer.
What's there to be angry about?

Put it on record.
--I am an Arab
Working with comrades of toil in a quarry.
I have eight childern
For them I wrest the loaf of bread,
The clothes and exercise books
From the rocks
And beg for no alms at your doors,
--Lower not myself at your doorstep.
--What's there to be angry about?

Put it on record.
--I am an Arab.
I am a name without a tide,
Patient in a country where everything
Lives in a whirlpool of anger.
--My roots
--Took hold before the birth of time
--Before the burgeoning of the ages,
--Before cypess and olive trees,
--Before the proliferation of weeds.

My father is from the family of the plough
--Not from highborn nobles.
And my grandfather was a peasant
--Without line or genealogy.
My house is a watchman's hut
--Made of sticks and reeds.
Does my status satisfy you?
--I am a name without a surname.

Put it on Record.
--I am an Arab.
Color of hair: jet black.
Color of eyes: brown.
My distinguishing features:
--On my head the 'iqal cords over a keffiyeh
--Scratching him who touches it.
My address:
--I'm from a village, remote, forgotten,
--Its streets without name
--And all its men in the fields and quarry.

--What's there to be angry about?

Put it on record.
--I am an Arab.
You stole my forefathers' vineyards
--And land I used to till,
--I and all my childern,
--And you left us and all my grandchildren
--Nothing but these rocks.
--Will your government be taking them too
--As is being said?

--Put it on record at the top of page one:
--I don't hate people,
--I trepass on no one's property.
And yet, if I were to become starved
--I shall eat the flesh of my usurper.
--Beware, beware of my starvation.
--And of my anger!

translated by Denys Johnson-Davies

I Will Slog over This Road

I will slog over this endless road to its end.
Until my heart stops, I will slog over this endless, endless road
with nothing to lose but the dust, what has died in me, and a row of palms
pointing toward what vanishes. I wil pass the row of palms.
The wound does not need its poet to paint the blood of death like a pomegranate!
On the roof of neighing, I will cut thirty openings for meaning
so that you may end one trail only so as to begin another.
Whether this earth comes to an end or not, we'll slog over this endless road.
More tense than a bow. Our steps, be arrows. Where were we a momen ago?
Shall we join, in a while, the first arrow? The spinning wind whirled us.
So, what do you say?

I say: I will slog over this endless road to its end and my own

translated by Munir Akash and Carolyn Forche

I Belong There

I belong there. I have many memories. I was born as everyone is born.
I have a mother, a house with many windows, brothers, friends, and a prison cell
with a chilly window! I have a wave snatched by seagulls, a panorama of my own.
I ahve a saturated meadow. In the deep horizon of my word, I have a moon,
a brid's sutenace, and an immortal olive tree.
I have lived on the land long before swords turned man into prey.
I belong there. When heaven mourns for her mother, I return heaven to her mother.
And I cry so that a returning cloud might carry my tears
To break the rules, i have learned all the words needed for a trial by blood.
I have learned and dismatled all the words in order to draw from the a single word: Home.

translated by Munir Akash and Carolyn Forche

Earth Presses against Us

Earth is pressing against us, trapping us in the final passage.
To pass through, we pull off our limbs.
Earth is squeezing us. If only we were its wheat, we might die and yet live.
If only it were our mother so that she might temper us with mercy.
If only we were pictures of rocks held in our dreams like mirrors.
We glimpse faces in their final battle for the soul, of those who will be killed
by the last living among us. We mourn their children's feast.
We saw the faces of those who would throw our children out of the windows.
of this last space. A star to burnish our mirrors.
Where should we go after the last border? Where should birds fly after the last sky?
Where should plants sleep after the last breath of air?
We write our names with crimson mist!
We end the hymn with our flesh.
Here we will die. Here, in the final passage.
Here or there, our blood will plant olive trees.

translated by Munir Akash and Carolyn Forche

The Owl's Night

Here is a present that yesterday doesn't touch...
When we reached
the last of the trees we noticed that we
were no longer able to notice. When
we looked at the trucks. We saw absence
heaping up its selected things and pitching
its eternal tent around us...

Here is a present
that yesterday doesn't touch
Silk thread slips between the mulberrry trees
letters on the nights's notebook. Only
butterflies light our boldness
descending to the hollow of strange words:
Was this difficult man my father?
Perhaps I'll look after myself here. Perhaps
I'll give birth, now, to myself, with myself
and choose for my name vertical letters...

Here is a present
sitting in time's emptiness, staring
at the trace of those who pas on the river's reeds
polishing their flutes with wind...Perhpas speech
will become transparent, so we'll see windows in it, open
Perhaps time will hurry, with us
carrying our tomorrow in its luggage...

Here is a present
without time
No one here found anyone who remembered
how we left the door, a gust of wind. Or anyone who remembered
when we fell off yesterday. Yesterday
shattered ove rth floor, shrapnel gathered together
by others, like mirrors for the image, after us...

Here is a present
without place
Perhaps I'll look after myself and scream at
the owl's night: Was that difficult man
my father, who would have me carry the burden of his history?
Perhpas I'll transform within my name and choose
my mother's words and habits as it should
be: She'll be able to joke with me
whenever salt touches my blood. She'll be able
to comfort me whenever a nightingale bites my mouth!

Here is a present
Here strangers hung their guns on
the branches of an olive tree, prepared dinner
quickly from tin cans, and left
quickly for their trucks...

translated by Jeffrey Sacks

To My End and to Its End...

-Are you tired of walking
my son, are you getting tired?
-Yes, father
Your night has grown long on the road
and your heart has flowed over your night's earth
-You're still as lithe as a cat
so climb up on my shoulders
In a little while we'll cross
the forest of terebinth and oak
This is the northern Galilee
Lebanon is behind us
The sky is ours, all of it, from Damascus
to the beautiful wall fo Acre
-And then what?
-We'll return to the house
Do you know the way, my son?
-Yes, father:
East of the carob tree on the main street there's
a small path crowded by cactus
at its opening. Then it leads, wider and wider,
to the well where it looks out
on the orchard of my uncle Jamil
who sells tobacco and sweets
Then it gets lost on a treshing floor before
it straightens out and settles in at home
in the shape of a parrot
-Do you know the house, my son?
-I know it like I know the path:
Jasmine winds around an iron gate
Footprints of light on the stone stairs
Sunflowers stare at what lies behind the place
Friendly bees prepare breakfast for my grandfather
on a reed tray
In the yard there's a well and a willow tree and a horse
Behind the fence, a tomorrow, thumbing through our papers...

-Oh father, are you getting tired?
Do I see sweat in your eyes?
-My son, I am tired... Can you carry me?
-Like you used to carry me, father
I'll carry this longing
my beginning
and its beginning
I'll follow this road to
my end... and to its end!

translated by Jeffrey Sacks

Strangers' Walk

I know the house from the bunch of sage. The first of the
windows leans toward the
red. I know the clouds' handwriting and the well where
it will wait fro the village women in summer. I know
what the dove says when it lays an egg on the mouth of
a gun. I know who opens the door to the jasmine
as it opens our dreams to the evening guest...

The strangers' carriage still hasn't arrived

No one's arrived. Leave me there like
you'd leave your greeting at the entrance of a house. To me or
to someone else, without concern for who'll hear it
first. Leave me, there, a few words for myself:
Was I alone? "Solitary, like the soul in
a body," when you said, once: I love you both,
you and the water. The water shone in everything,
like a guitar that let itself cry!

The stangers' guitar still hasn't arrived

Let's be good! Take me to the sea at
sunset, so I'll hear what it tells you
when it returns to itself, still, still
I won't change. I'll slip into a wave
and say: Take me to the sea again. This is what
the frightened do with themselves: They go to
the sea when a star, aflame in the sky, torments them

The stangers' song still hasn't arrived

I know the hosue from the fluttering scarves. The first of the
doves cries on my shoulders. Beneath the sky
of the Gospels a child runs aimlessly. Water
runs. The pines run. The wind runs in
the wind. The earth runs in itself. I said:
Don't bein a rush when you leave the house. Nothing
prevents this place from pausing fro a moment,
here, while you put on the day's shirt and
the shoes of the wind

The strangers' myth still hasn't arrived...

No one's arrived. So leave me there like
you leave the myth with whomever sees you, and he cries,
and runs in himself afraid of his happiness:
I love you so, you are so much yourself! Afraid of
his soul: There is no "I" now, but "she" in me
There is no "she" but my fragile "I".
At the end of this song, how much I fear that my dream
may not see its dream in her.

No one's arrived
Perhaps the stangers lost thier way
to the stangers' walk!

translated by Amira El-Zein and Jeffrey Sacks

A Rhyme for the Odes (Mu'allaqat)

No one guided me to myself. I am the guide
Between desert and sea, I am my own guide to myself.
Born of language on the road to India between two small tribes,
adorned by the moonlight of ancient faiths and an impossible peace,
compelled to guard the periphery of a Persian neighborhood
and the great obsession of the Byzantines,
so that the heaviness of time lightens over the Arab's tent.
Who am I? This is a question that others ask, but have no answer.
I am my language, I am an ode, two odes, ten. This is my language.
I am my language. I am words' writ: Be! Be my body!
And I become an embodiment of thier timbre.
I am what I ahve spoken to the words: Be the place where
my body joins the eternity of the desert.
Be, so that I may become my words.
No land on earth bears me. Only my words bear me,
a bird born from me who builds a nest in my ruins
before me, and in the rubble of the enchanting world around me.
I stood on a wind, and my long night without end.
This is my language, a necklace of stars around the necks
of my loved ones. They emigrated.
They carried the place and emigrated, they carried time and emigrated.
They lifted their frangrances from their bowls.
They took their bleak pastures and emigrated.
They took the words. The ravaged heart left with them.
Will the echo, this echo, this white, sonorous mirage
hold a name whose hoarseness fills the unknown
and whom departure fills with divinity?
The sky opened a windon for me. I looked and found nothing
save myself outside itself, as it has always been,
and my desert-haunted visions.
My steps are wind and sand, my world is my body
and what I can hold onto.
I am the traveler and also the road.
Gods appear to me and dissappear.
We don't linger upon what is to come.
There is no tomorrow in this desert, save what we saw yesterday,
so let me brandish my ode to break the cycle of time,
and let there be beautiful days!
How much past tomorrow holds!
I left myself to itself, a self filled with the present.
Departure emptied me of temples.
Heaven has its own nations and wars.
I have a gazelle for a wife,
and palm trees for odes in a book of sand.
What I see is the past.
For mankind, a kingdom of dust and a crown.
Let my language overcome my hostile fate, my line of descendants.
Let it overcome me, my father, and a vanishing that won't vaninsh.
This is my language, my miracle, my magic wand.
This is my obelisk and the gardends of my Babylon,
my first identity, my polished metal, the desert idol of an Arab
who worships what flows from rhymes like stars in his aba,
and who worships his own words.

So let there be prose.
There must be a divine prose for the Prophet to triumph.

translated by Amira El-Zein

Lesson from the Kama-Sutra

Wait for her with an azure cup.
Wait for her in the evening at the spring, among perfumed roses.
Wait for her with the patience of a horse trained for mountains.
Wait for her with the distinctive, aesthetic taste of a prince.
Wait for her with the seven pillows of cloud.
Wait for her with strands of womanly incense wafting.
Wait for her with the manly scent of sandalwood on horseback.
Wait for her and do not rush.
If she arrives late, wait for her.
If she arrives early, wait for her.
Do not frighten the birds in her braided hair.
Take her to the balcony to watch the moon drowning in milk.
Wait for her and offer her water before wine.
Do not glance at the twin partridges sleeping on her chest.
Wait and gently touch her hand as she sets a cup on marble.
As if you are carrying the dew for her, wait.
Speak to her as a flute would to a frightened violin string,
As if you knew what tomorrow would bring.
Wait, and polish the night for her ring by ring.
Wait for her until the night speaks to you thus:
There is no one alive but the two of you.
So take her gently to the death you so desire,
and wait.


Mohamad Zaher said...

Thank you for adding poems for this great poet

Pastamama said...

A friend of mine posted a couple lines from Mahmoud Darwish and being curious I had to translate these words which led me here. I read all the poetry listed. No words describe the feeling that came over me. Opened my eyes thinking of people I've never known, never met but deep inside wanted to know and mostly understand. After reading the poems realized how important it is to learn from others do not say I hate this group of people before you have even met them or listened to them. I'm thankful for these pages.