Although I grew up in a home that celebrates mothers daily, I want to take this national day of reflection on motherhood to share both a scene from life with my mother, and one of her favorite poems. This weekend I published an essay in Serious Eats about how my mother’s baking ritual taught me how to love what we create–and when to let go. Amidst all the heartbreaking realities of today’s world, I remain ever grateful for the power of food, and for those who nourish us. I hope you enjoy this bit of prose that snuck into my poetry blog, and some insight into the person posting if you are one of the lovely readers I don’t know!
As for the poem, here are the incredible words of one of the most beloved voices of Palestine, Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008). He wrote this poem while in prison for his political activism, poetry, and travels without a permit.
I long for my mother’s bread My mother’s coffee Her touch 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.
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.
“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.
I think of these words by the great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008) all the time, and I cannot help but share them again with all of you today.
“Think of Others”
As you prepare your breakfast, think of others
(do not forget the pigeon’s food).
As you wage your wars, think of others
(do not forget those who seek peace).
As you pay your water bill, think of others
(those who are nursed by clouds).
As you return home, to your home, think of others
(do not forget the people of the camps).
As you sleep and count the stars, think of others
(those who have nowhere to sleep).
As you express yourself in metaphor, think of others
(those who have lost the right to speak).
As you think of others far away, think of yourself
(say: If only I were a candle in the dark).