Mahmud Darwish: A State of Siege
Here, on the slopes of hills,
facing the cannons of time,
here by orchards with severed shadows,
we do what prisoners
what the unemployed do:
we nurse hope.
This siege will last until we teach our enemy
selections of pre-Islamic poetry.
when the housewife doesn’t set up the clothesline
in the morning and preoccupies herself with the cleanness of the flag.
The soldiers gauge the distance between being and nothingness
with a tank’s telescope.
We gauge the distance between our bodies and shells
with the sixth sense.
You who stand on our doorstep, come in
and drink with us Arabic coffee
[you might feel you are humans like us].
You who stand on our doorstep
get out of our mornings
so we can be certain
we are humans like you.
Behind the soldiers,
the pine trees and minarets
keep the sky from arching downward.
Behind the iron fence soldiers pee –
guarded by tanks –
and this autumn day keeps up its golden stroll
in a street wide as a church after Sunday prayer.
A humorous writer once said to me:
“If I knew the end, from the beginning,
I would have no business with words.”
The siege will last until those who lay the siege feel,
like the besieged, that boredom is a human attribute.
To resist means to maintain the soundness
of the heart and testicles and your interminable disease:
Writing is a puppy biting the void;
it wounds without blood.
Our coffee cups, the birds
and green trees with blue shade,
and sun leaping from wall
toward another wall, like a gazelle,
and water in clouds of endless forms
spread across whatever ration of sky is left for us,
and things whose remembrance is deferred
and this morning, strong and luminous—
all beckon we are guests of eternity.
Our poet Mahmud Darwish is born in 1941 in Birwa near Acre. He leaves us in 2008. He had been actively involved in the cultural dimension of the PLO. His books include Asafir Bila Ajniha (Wingless Birds, 1960), Awraq al-Zaytun (Olive Leaves, 1964), Ashiq Min Filastin (A lover from Palestine. 1966, 1970), Uhibbuki aw la Uhibbuki (I love you, I love you not, 1972), Qasida Bayrut (Ode to Beirut, 1982) and Madih al-Zill ali-Ali (A Eulogy for the Tall Shadow, 1982).
As a poet, Darwish is both deeply personal and political. His love poems fuse with the political in the most extraordinary way: it is as if the ‘aisling’ – the ‘beautiful maiden’ of our Irish poetry, symbolising Ireland – becomes a real woman.
Mahmud Darwish is our most distinguished Palestinian poet. He is known throughout the world as ‘the poet of Palestinian resistance.’