And They Don’t Ask – Mahmoud Darwish

And they don’t ask: What comes after death? 

Though more intimate with the book of Paradise 

than with accounts of the earth, they’re preoccupied 

with another question: What shall we do 

before this death? Near to life, we live 

and we don’t – as if life were parceled out 

from a desert where the haggling gods of property 

settle their disputes. 

We live beside an ancient dust. 

Our lives burden the historian’s night: 

‘Though I make them disappear, they come back to me 

from absence.’ 

Our lives burden the artist: 

‘I draw them and become one of them, veiled in mist.’ 

Our lives burden the General: 

‘How can a ghost still bleed?’ 

We shall be what we want to be. And we want 

a bit of life, not for just anything – but to honor 

the resurrection after our death. 

Unintentionally, they speak the philosopher’s words: 

‘Death means nothing to us: if we are then he isn’t. 

Death means nothing to us: if he is then we are not.’ 

And they have rearranged their dreams 

and sleep standing. 

And We Have Countries – Mahmoud Darwish

And we have countries without borders, like our idea

 of the unknown, narrow and wide – countries whose maps 

narrow to a gray tunnel as we walk in them and cry out 

in their labyrinths: ‘And still we love you.’ 

Our love is an inherited disease. Countries that grow 

by tossing us into the unknown. Their willows 

and portrayals grow, their grasses and blue mountains. 

A lake widens north of the soul. Wheat spikes 

spring up south of the soul. The lemon shines like a lamp 

in an emigrant’s night. Geography emits sacred texts. 

And the ascending chain of hills reaches higher 

and higher. The exile tells himself: ‘If I were a bird 

I would burn my wings.’ The smells of autumn 

become the image of one I love, soft rain seeps 

into the dry heart and imagination opens to its source 

and becomes reality’s terrain, the only true place. 

Everything distant becomes rural and primitive, 

as if the earth were still gathering itself to meet Adam 

descending from his paradise. I say: These are the countries 

that bear us…so when were we born? 

Did Adam take two wives? Or will we be born again 

to forget sin? 

Another Day Will Come – Mahmoud Darwish

Another day will come, a womanly day

diaphanous in metaphor, complete in being,

diamond and processional in visitation, sunny,

flexible, with a light shadow. No one will feel

a desire for suicide or for leaving. All 

things, outside the past, natural and real,

will be synonyms of their early traits. As if time

is slumbering on vacation… “Extend your lovely

beauty-time. Sunbathe in the sun of your silken breasts,

and wait until good omen arrives. Later

we will grow older. We have enough time

to grow older after this day…”/

Another day will come, a womanly day

songlike in gesture, lapis in greeting

and in phrase. All things will be feminine outside

the past. Water will flow from rock’s bosom.

No dust, no drought, no defeat.

And a dove will sleep in the afternoon in an abandoned 

combat tank if it doesn’t find a small nest

in the lovers’ bed… 

To My Mother – Mahmoud Darwish

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. 

Palestine – Mahmoud Darwish 

This land gives us

all that makes life worth living:

April’s blushing advances,

the aroma of bread at dawn,

a woman’s haranguing of men,

the poetry of Aeschylus,

love’s trembling beginning,

moss on a stone

mothers dancing on a flute’s thread

and the invaders’ fear of memories.
This land give us

all that makes life worth living:

September’s rustling end,

a woman leaving forty behind with her apricots,

an hour of sunlight in prison,

clouds reflecting swarms of insects,

a people’s applause for those who laugh at their erasure,

and the tyrant’s fear of songs.
This land give us

all that makes life worth living:

Lady Earth, mother of all beginnings and endings,

She was called Palestine

and she is still called Palestine. 

My Lady, because you are my Lady, I deserve life. 

Pride And Fury -Mahmoud Darwish

O Homeland! O Eagle, 

Plunging, through the bars of my cell, 

Your fiery beak in my eyes! 

All I possess in the presence of death 

Is pride and fury. 

I have willed that my heart be planted as a tree, 

That my forehead become an abode for skylarks. 

O eagle, 

I am unworthy of your lofty wing, 

I prefer a crown of flame. 

O homeland! 

We were born and raised in your wound, 

And ate the fruit of your trees, 

To witness the birth of your daybreak. 

O eagle unjustly languishing in chains, 

O legendary death which once was sought, 

Your fiery beak is still plunged in my eye.

Rita And The Rifle – Mahmoud Darwish

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.

The Pigeons Fly – Mahmoud Darwish

The pigeons fly, 

the pigeons come down… 

Prepare a place for me to rest. 

I love you unto weariness, 

your morning is fruit for songs 

and this evening is precious gold 

the shadows are strong as marble. 

When I see myself, 

it is hanging upon a neck that embraces only the clouds, 

you are the air that undresses in front of me like tears of the grape, 

you are the beginning of the family of waves held by the shore. 

I love you, you are the beginning of my soul, and you are the end… 

the pigeons fly 

the pigeons come down… 

I am for my lover I am. And my lover is for his wandering star 

Sleep my love 

on you my hair braids, peace be with you… 

the pigeons fly 

the pigeons come down… 

Oh, my love, where are you taking me away from my parents, 

from my trees, small bed and from my weariness, 

from my visions, from my light, from my memories and pleasant evenings, 

from my dress and my shyness, 

where are you taking me my love, where? 

You take me, set me on fire, and then leave me 

in the vain path of the air 

that is a sin… that is a sin… 

the pigeons fly 

the pigeons come down… 

My love, I fear the silence of your hands. 

Scratch my blood so the horse can sleep. 

My love, female birds fly to you 

take me as a wife and breathe. 

My love I will stay and breasts will grow for you 

The guards take me out of your way 

my love, I will cry upon you, upon you, upon you. 

because you are die surface of my sky. 

My body is the land, 

the place for you… 

the pigeons fly 

the pigeons come down…

The Prison Cell – Mahmoud Darwish

It is possible… 

It is possible at least sometimes… 

It is possible especially now 

To ride a horse 

Inside a prison cell 

And run away… 
It is possible for prison walls 

To disappear, 

For the cell to become a distant land 

Without frontiers: 
What did you do with the walls? 

I gave them back to the rocks. 

And what did you do with the ceiling? 

I turned it into a saddle. 

And your chain? 

I turned it into a pencil. 
The prison guard got angry. 

He put an end to my dialogue. 

He said he didn’t care for poetry, 

And bolted the door of my cell. 
He came back to see me 

In the morning, 

He shouted at me: 
Where did all this water come from? 

I brought it from the Nile. 

And the trees? 

From the orchards of Damascus. 

And the music? 

From my heartbeat. 
The prison guard got mad; 

He put an end to my dialogue. 

He said he didn’t like my poetry, 

And bolted the door of my cell. 
But he returned in the evening: 
Where did this moon come from? 

From the nights of Baghdad. 

And the wine? 

From the vineyards of Algiers. 

And this freedom? 

From the chain you tied me with last night. 
The prison guard grew so sad… 

He begged me to give him back 

His freedom.

The Owl’s Night – Mahmoud Darwish

Here is a present that yesterday doesn’t touch… 

When we reached 

the last of the trees we noticed that we 

were no longer able to notice. When 

we looked at the trucks. We saw absence 

heaping up its selected things and pitching 

its eternal tent around us… 

Here is a present 

that yesterday doesn’t touch 

Silk thread slips between the mulberrry trees 

letters on the nights’s notebook. Only 

butterflies light our boldness 

descending to the hollow of strange words: 

Was this difficult man my father? 

Perhaps I’ll look after myself here. Perhaps 

I’ll give birth, now, to myself, with myself 

and choose for my name vertical letters… 

Here is a present 

sitting in time’s emptiness, staring 

at the trace of those who pas on the river’s reeds 

polishing their flutes with wind…Perhpas speech 

will become transparent, so we’ll see windows in it, open 

Perhaps time will hurry, with us 

carrying our tomorrow in its luggage… 

Here is a present 

without time 

No one here found anyone who remembered 

how we left the door, a gust of wind. Or anyone who remembered 

when we fell off yesterday. Yesterday 

shattered ove rth floor, shrapnel gathered together 

by others, like mirrors for the image, after us… 

Here is a present 

without place 

Perhaps I’ll look after myself and scream at 

the owl’s night: Was that difficult man 

my father, who would have me carry the burden of his history? 

Perhpas I’ll transform within my name and choose 

my mother’s words and habits as it should 

be: She’ll be able to joke with me 

whenever salt touches my blood. She’ll be able 

to comfort me whenever a nightingale bites my mouth! 

Here is a present 

fleeting 

Here strangers hung their guns on 

the branches of an olive tree, prepared dinner 

quickly from tin cans, and left 

quickly for their trucks… 

To My Mother – Mahmoud Darwish

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.

We Journey Towards A Home – Mahmoud Darwish

We journey towards a home not of our flesh. Its chestnut trees are not of our bones. 

Its rocks are not like goats in the mountain hymn. The pebbles’ eyes are not lilies. 

We journey towards a home that does not halo our heads with a special sun. 

Mythical women applaud us. A sea for us, a sea against us. 

When water and wheat are not at hand, eat our love and drink our tears… 

There are mourning scarves for poets. A row of marble statues will lift our voice. 

And an urn to keep the dust of time away from our souls. Roses for us and against us. 

You have your glory, we have ours. Of our home we see only the unseen: our mystery. 

Glory is ours: a throne carried on feet torn by roads that led to every home but our own! 

The soul must recognize itself in its very soul, or die here.

Poem – I Come From There – Mahmoud Darwish

I come from there and I have memories 

Born as mortals are, I have a mother 

And a house with many windows, 

I have brothers, friends, 

And a prison cell with a cold window. 

Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls, 

I have my own view, 

And an extra blade of grass. 

Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words, 

And the bounty of birds, 

And the immortal olive tree. 

I walked this land before the swords 

Turned its living body into a laden table. 

I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother 

When the sky weeps for her mother. 

And I weep to make myself known 

To a returning cloud. 

I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood 

So that I could break the rule. 

I learnt all the words and broke them up 

To make a single word: Homeland…..

Poem – A Noun Sentence – Mahmoud Darwish

A noun sentence, no verb 

to it or in it: to the sea the scent of the bed 

after making love … a salty perfume 

or a sour one. A noun sentence: my wounded joy 

like the sunset at your strange windows. 

My flower green like the phoenix. My heart exceeding 

my need, hesitant between two doors: 

entry a joke, and exit 

a labyrinth. Where is my shadow—my guide amid 

the crowdedness on the road to judgment day? And I 

as an ancient stone of two dark colors in the city wall, 

chestnut and black, a protruding insensitivity 

toward my visitors and the interpretation of shadows. Wishing 

for the present tense a foothold for walking behind me 

or ahead of me, barefoot. Where 

is my second road to the staircase of expanse? Where 

is futility? Where is the road to the road? 

And where are we, the marching on the footpath of the present 

tense, where are we? Our talk a predicate 

and a subject before the sea, and the elusive foam 

of speech the dots on the letters, 

wishing for the present tense a foothold 

on the pavement …

Poem – Hope – Mahmoud Darwish

Still there is on thy saucers remains of honey Kick out the flies so that you can protect the honey 

Still there is on their vines clusters of grapes 

O, guarders of vines, drive foxes out, 

Therefore, grapes will be ripe healthy. 

Still there is at thy houses mat and door 

Close up the way of wind away out of thy children 

Perhaps they can sleep 

Wind is very cold and you should close doors. 

Still there is effluent blood in their hearts, 

You may keep it and don’t throw away 

A new fetus is still unborn waiting the dawn 

Still there is at thy hearth remains of firewood 

Still there is coffee and a bundle of blaze