We love life if we find a way to it.

Ramadan Kareem to those of you who are observing this month. Here’s a poem from the late great Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008), whose words I grew up with and who has long been a touchstone of mine.

Image of a heart surrounded by jasmine with minarets and palm trees coming out of it
Art by Kristina Closs

“And We Love Life”

And we love life if we find a way to it.
We dance in between martyrs and raise a minaret for violet or palm trees.

We love life if we find a way to it.
And we steal from the silkworm a thread to build a sky and fence in this departure.

We open the garden gate for the jasmine to go out as a beautiful day on the streets.

We love life if we find a way to it.

And we plant, where we settle, some fast growing plants, and harvest the dead.
We play the flute like the color of the faraway, sketch over the dirt corridor a neigh.
We write our names one stone at a time, O lightning make the night a bit clearer.

We love life if we find a way to it…

translated from Arabic by Fady Joudah

what planet in the widow’s hand?

Today I give you just one of the searing poems from The Silence that Remains by Palestinian poet, novelist, and journalist Ghassan Zaqtan (1954-), translated by Palestinian-American poet and physician Fady Joudah (1971-).


“That Life”

I’m going to see how they died
I’m going toward that wreckage
going to see them there
tranquil on the hill of engagement

Dear Wednesday’s narcissus, what time is it
what death is it
what planet in the widow’s hand
five or three?

Her dress was blooming
              we were
neglected flowers on her dress

Dear women’s thresholds, how much is a lifetime
what time is a river
how many daggers in the blood
of the whirling storm
five or three?

We let the city play
and rolled our widespread shrouds shut

I’m going to see how they died
I’m going toward that wreckage
going to see their death
hills of the north
wind-rise of the south
I’m going to call them by their names

Let me kind you in two tongues

The political becomes personal, and powerfully so, in Philip Metres’ amazing new book Sand Operawhich he describes as a “collection of poems that sets in counterpoint the experience of becoming a father on the home front and the War on Terror abroad, and meditates on what it means to celebrate the body, raise children, and write poetry in a terrifying world of war and violence.” In addition to Metres’ new collection, (and his other ones, which I’m just now reading), I highly recommend this recent interview in the Los Angeles Review of Books with the also fantastic poet Fady Joudah.

Love Potion #42

Before you, I slept on a bayonet,
Bided my time in clothing. Neither experience
nor innocence kept me

from bleeding. Before you, I held
an invisible sign: please touch this abyss.
How pleasing to have you sieve me

through your lungs, leave me essential
dregs and seeds. Since there’s no place
a grain of sand cannot hide, deserts

and strands now travel the world
with us, in shoes. Let me kind you in two
tongues, Habibti, two decades ago,

we fell off a cliff, each holding a wing,
each holding a hand, and have yet to land.