I realize more with every passing day what a distinct privilege and joy it was to be able to walk through the market, shopping for peaches, shopping for images, striding down the open corridors together. This infamous poem by Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) is of course about so much more than a supermarket, but it keeps rolling through my mind as we navigate the unease of meandering through markets in this moment.
“A Supermarket in California”
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.