Have you heard of Mahmoud Darwish, who died less than a year ago at the age of sixty-seven? He was considered by many to be the voice of Palestine; whether he was constructing poetry or prose, he was always writing as a fiercely proud Arab (he was born in Western Galilee). Look him up. Read his words. Let his poetry gift you with a different lens into a situation you may have only been exposed to through the news. I offer one of his more subtle poems to you tonight as I think about my mother, who is also a proud Palestinian.
First, in Arabic:
I long for my mother’s bread
My mother’s coffee
Childhood memories grow up in me
Day after day
I must be worth my life
At the hour of my death
Worth the tears of my mother.
And if I come back one day
Take me as a veil to your eyelashes
Cover my bones with the grass
Blessed by your footsteps
Bind us together
With a lock of your hair
With a thread that trails from the back of your dress
I might become immortal
Become a God
If I touch the depths of your heart.
If I come back
Use me as wood to feed your fire
As the clothesline on the roof of your house
Without your blessing
I am too weak to stand.
I am old
Give me back the star maps of childhood
So that I
Along with the swallows
Can chart the path
Back to your waiting nest.
[….Did I say I was only posting one poem? Well surprise. Here’s one more…]
“I Belong There”
Translated by Carolyn Forche and Munir Akash
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 have a saturated meadow. In the deep horizon of my word, I have a moon,
a bird’s sustenance, 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
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 dismantled all the words in order to draw from them a single word: Home.