Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Video: Two Poems by Mahmoud Darwish

My post at 2012 Banned Books Read-Out Videos of people reading from banned or censored books as part of of the American Library Association's Banned Books Week (September 30-October 6).

In March of 2000 Israeli Minister of Education Yossi Sarid announced the inclusion of two poems by “Palestinian national poet” Mahmoud Darwish, perhaps the most acclaimed Arab-language poet of the 20th century, into the Israeli high school curriculum. This erupted a political firestorm that resulted in Darwish’s poetry being officially banned from Israeli schools, a ban that is still in effect, with then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak remarking that his country “wasn’t ready.” Darwish replied “"It is difficult to believe that the most militarily powerful country in the Middle East is threatened by a poem. The first step of real peace is to know the other side, its culture and creativity." Here are two Darwish poems translated into English by Lamdi Hasan:

Rita and the Rifle

Between Rita and my eyes there is a rifle
And whoever knows Rita kneels and prays
To the divinity in those honey-colored eyes
And I kissed Rita
When she was young
And I remember how she approached
And how my arm covered the loveliest of braids
And I remember Rita
The way a sparrow remembers its stream

Ah, Rita

Between us there are a million sparrows and images
And many a rendezvous
Fired at by a rifle
Rita's name was a feast in my mouth
Rita's body was a wedding in my blood
And I was lost in Rita for two years
And for two years she slept on my arm
And we made promises
Over the most beautiful of cups
And we burned in the wine of our lips
And we were born again

Ah, Rita!

What before this rifle could have turned my eyes from yours
Except a nap or two or honey-colored clouds?
Once upon a time
Oh, the silence of dusk
In the morning my moon migrated to a far place
Towards those honey-colored eyes
And the city swept away all the singers
And Rita
Between Rita and my eyes — A rifle

Think of Others

As you fix your breakfast, think of others. Don’t forget to feed the pigeons.

As you fight your wars, think of others. Don’t forget those who want peace.

As you pay your water bill, think of others, who drink the clouds’ rain.

As you return home, your own home, think of others. Don’t forget those who live in tents.

As you sleep and count the stars, think of others. There are people who have no place to sleep.

As you liberate yourself with metaphors, think of others, who lost their rights to speak.

And as you think of distant others, think of yourself and say “I wish I was a candle in the darkness.”


Rusty Kjarvik said...

great work. a solemn re-cognition of one of the most brutal and infamous spells of injustice in our times.

reminds me of a boat ride in Egypt. i met a Palestinian man, exiled to California, whose eyes lit up so bright when i pronounced the name: Mahmoud Darwish, and how dearly I read his words, as a student of Arabic in Cairo

reminds me of the question asked by my stepfather to the Palestinian man, "are you a dodgers or an angels fan?" with a sly grin. "I play backgammon" he responded shyly, bent and huddling in the solemn shadows of a bitter exile

continue to re-mind us, continue to re-cognize the need for the creativity of the other, and the reflective power of a poem in the face of silent metal arms

Rusty Kjarvik said...

also, for further enlightened performances of Mahmoud Darwish's words, see Marcel Khalife's current concert series, "Fall of the Moon"

erin said...

a curious and effective:) thing happened. i clicked on the video and one of your songs came on in the background, one that i had heard before (shit, i forget the title...stars...god, i can hear it...how we burn...) and faintly i heard the Darwish poems in the background. it was a formidable experience.

what can i say? i do not, can not understand one man choosing to hurt another, never mind a woman or a child. i do not, can not understand this world.