Submit your work, meet writers and drop the ads. Become a member
Michael R Burch Oct 2020
Mahmoud Darwish: English Translations

Mahmoud Darwish is the essential breath of the Palestinian people, the eloquent witness of exile and belonging ... his is an utterly necessary voice, unforgettable once discovered.―Naomi Shihab Nye

by Mahmoud Darwish
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This land gives us
all that makes life worthwhile:
April's blushing advances,
the aroma of bread warming at dawn,
a woman haranguing men,
the poetry of Aeschylus,
love's trembling beginnings,
a boulder covered with moss,
mothers who dance to the flute's sighs,
and the invaders' fear of memories.

This land gives us
all that makes life worthwhile:
September's rustling end,
a woman leaving forty behind, still full of grace, still blossoming,
an hour of sunlight in prison,
clouds taking the shapes of unusual creatures,
the people's applause for those who mock their assassins,
and the tyrant's fear of songs.

This land gives us
all that makes life worthwhile:
Lady Earth, mother of all beginnings and endings!
In the past she was called Palestine
and tomorrow she will still be called Palestine.
My Lady, because you are my Lady, I deserve life!

Identity Card
by Mahmoud Darwish
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I am an Arab!
And my identity card is number fifty thousand.
I have eight children;
the ninth arrives this autumn.
Will you be furious?

I am an Arab!
Employed at the quarry,
I have eight children.
I provide them with bread,
clothes and books
from the bare rocks.
I do not supplicate charity at your gates,
nor do I demean myself at your chambers' doors.
Will you be furious?

I am an Arab!
I have a name without a title.
I am patient in a country
where people are easily enraged.
My roots
were established long before the onset of time,
before the unfolding of the flora and fauna,
before the pines and the olive trees,
before the first grass grew.
My father descended from plowmen,
not from the privileged classes.
My grandfather was a lowly farmer
neither well-bred, nor well-born!
Still, they taught me the pride of the sun
before teaching me how to read;
now my house is a watchman's hut
made of branches and cane.
Are you satisfied with my status?
I have a name, but no title!

I am an Arab!
You have stolen my ancestors' orchards
and the land I cultivated
along with my children.
You left us nothing
but these bare rocks.
Now will the State claim them
as it has been declared?

Record on the first page:
I do not hate people
nor do I encroach,
but if I become hungry
I will feast on the usurper's flesh!
Beware my hunger
and my anger!

NOTE: Darwish was married twice, but had no children. In the poem above, he is apparently speaking for his people, not for himself personally.

Excerpt from “Speech of the Red Indian”
by Mahmoud Darwish
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let's give the earth sufficient time to recite
the whole truth ...
The whole truth about us.
The whole truth about you.

In tombs you build
the dead lie sleeping.
Over bridges you *****
file the newly slain.

There are spirits who light up the night like fireflies.
There are spirits who come at dawn to sip tea with you,
as peaceful as the day your guns mowed them down.

O, you who are guests in our land,
please leave a few chairs empty
for your hosts to sit and ponder
the conditions for peace
in your treaty with the dead.

by Mahmoud Darwish
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

They left me unrecognizable in the shadows
that bled all colors from this passport.
To them, my wounds were novelties―
curious photos for tourists to collect.
They failed to recognize me. No, don't leave
the palm of my hand bereft of sun
when all the trees recognize me
and every song of the rain honors me.
Don't set a wan moon over me!

All the birds that flocked to my welcoming wave
as far as the distant airport gates,
all the wheatfields,
all the prisons,
all the albescent tombstones,
all the barbwired boundaries,
all the fluttering handkerchiefs,
all the eyes―
they all accompanied me.
But they were stricken from my passport
shredding my identity!

How was I stripped of my name and identity
on soil I tended with my own hands?
Today, Job's lamentations
re-filled the heavens:
Don't make an example of me, not again!
Prophets! Gentlemen!―
Don't require the trees to name themselves!
Don't ask the valleys who mothered them!
My forehead glistens with lancing light.
From my hand the riverwater springs.
My identity can be found in my people's hearts,
so invalidate this passport!

Excerpts from "The Dice Player"
by Mahmoud Darwish
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Who am I to say
the things I say to you?

I am not a stone
burnished to illumination by water ...

Nor am I a reed
riddled by the wind
into a flute ...

No, I'm a dice player:
I win sometimes
and I lose sometimes,
just like you ...
or perhaps a bit less.

I was born beside the water well with the three lonely trees like nuns:
born without any hoopla or a midwife.

I was given my unplanned name by chance,
assigned to my family by chance,
and by chance inherited their features, attributes, habits and illnesses.

First, arterial plaque and hypertension;
second, shyness when addressing my elders;
third, the hope of curing the flu with cups of hot chamomile;
fourth, laziness in describing gazelles and larks;
fifth, lethargy dark winter nights;
sixth, the lack of a singing voice.

I had no hand in my own being;
it was mere coincidence that I popped out male;
mere coincidence that I saw the pale lemon-like moon illuminating sleepless girls
and did not unleash the mole hidden in my private parts.

I might not have existed
had my father not married my mother
by chance.

Or I might have been like my sister
who screamed then died,
only alive an hour
and never knowing who gave her birth.

Or like the doves’ eggs
smashed before her chicks hatched.

Was it mere coincidence
that I was the one left alive in a traffic accident
because I didn’t board the bus ...
because I’d forgotten about life and its routines
while reading the night before
a love story in which I became first the author,
then the lover, then the beloved and love’s martyr ...
then overslept and avoided the accident!

I also played no role in surviving the sea,
because I was a reckless boy,
allured by the magnetic water
calling: Come to me!
No, I only survived the sea
because a human gull rescued me
when he saw the waves pulling me under and paralyzing my hands!

Who am I to say
the things I say to you
outside the church door?

I'm nothing but a dice throw,
a toss between predator and prey.

In my moonlit awareness
I witnessed the massacre
and survived by sheer chance:
I was too small for the enemy to target,
barely bigger than the bee
flitting among the fence’s flowers.

Then I feared for my father and family;
I feared for our time as fragile as glass;
I feared for my pet cat and rabbit;
I feared for a magical moon looming high over the mosque’s minarets;
I feared for our vines’ grapes
dangling like a dog’s udders ...

Then fear walked beside me and I walked with it,
barefoot, forgetting my fragile dreams of what I had wanted for tomorrow
because there was no time for tomorrow.

I was lucky the wolves
departed by chance,
or else escaped from the army.

I also played no role in my own life,
except when Life taught me her recitations.
Are there any more?, I wondered,
then lit my lamps and tried to amend them ...

I might not have been a swallow
had the wind ordained it otherwise ...

The wind is the traveler's fate: his fortune or misfortune.

I flew north, east, west ...
but the south was too harsh, too rebellious for me
because the south is my country.
I became a swallow’s metaphor,
hovering over my life’s debris
from spring to autumn,
baptizing my feathers in the cloud-like lake
then offering my salaams to the undying Nazarene:
undying because God’s spirit lives within him
and God is the prophet’s luck ...

While it is my good fortune to be the Godhead’s neighbor ...

Just as it is my bad fortune the cross
remains our future’s eternal ladder!

Who am I to say
the things I say to you?
Who am I?

I might have not been inspired
because inspiration is the lonely soul’s compensation
and the poem is his dice throw
on an unlit board
that may or may not glow ...

Words fall ...
as feathers fall to earth:
I did not plan this poem.
I only obeyed its rhythm’s demands.

Who am I to say
the things I say to you?

It might not have been me.
I might not have been here to write it.
My plane might have crashed one morning
while I slept till noon
then arrived at the airport too late
to visit Damascus and Cairo,
the Louvre, and other enchanting cities.

Had I been a slow walker, a rifle might have severed my shadow from its cedar.
Had I been a fast walker, I might have disintegrated and vanished like a fleeting whim.
Had I dreamt too much, I might have lost my memories of reality.

I am fortunate to sleep alone
listening to my body's complaints
with my talent for detecting pain,
so that I call the physician ten minutes before death:
dodging death by a mere ten minutes,
continuing life by chance,
disappointing the Void.

But who am I to disappoint the Void?
Who am I?

Keywords/Tags: Mahmoud Darwish, Palestine, Palestinian, Arab, Arabic, translation, Gaza, Israel, children, mothers, injustice, violence, war, race, racism, intolerance, ethnic cleansing, genocide
Chad Young Sep 2020
You look like the blessed Middle East.
Your smile is like 1000 Fatimas.
Your eyes so full and ready to serve humanity.
Jet black hair that portrays the night.
Cream skin like Pistachio ice cream.
Several hundred eyelashes as rays of a dark lit sun.
A nose of a hundred thousand prostrations to God.
To touch your jacket would give off
a mystical scent.
To straighten your tie would be a service to Mother Mary.
Fingers like petals of lillies.
"Hi Chad" you whisper with an ecstatic Hijaz.
Legs forgotten by a million Quranic recitations.
Pious seal of purity.
"I am not the beauty you seek" the black globe of your eye
One hundred 'Ali's have circled round me.
Ten Yusif's have proposed.
"I am a fairy tale like no other" you let out
with a diamond glint in your eye
"You and me, we'll make a love that cannot be forgotten."
"I will make you worship at my shrine."
A thousand Husayns cannot handle me.
I am my daddy's little girl.
You must pray five times with me
every day we are together.
You must testify to Muhammad
as the Seal of the Prophets.
"What of the Qaim?" I plead with her.
She replies, "Of that I don't know."
"Then a thousand mirrors of beauty are still shut
to you joon."
"Though you are moonshine of the Twelve Imams,
I must send you on your travels
and leave this page with a sploch."
Pinterest pilot picture
Aseel Sep 2020
نحن الذين نُجيد الكتابة عن الحب جيدًا
لا نجدُ من يُحبنا كما نكتب
Michael R Burch Jul 2020
Excerpts from “Travels with Einstein”
by Michael R. Burch

for Trump

I went to Berlin to learn wisdom
from Adolph. The wild spittle flew
as he screamed at me, with great conviction:
“Please despise me! I look like a Jew!”

So I flew off to ’Nam to learn wisdom
from tall Yankees who cursed “yellow” foes.
“If we lose this small square,” they informed me,
earth’s nations will fall, dominoes!”

I then sat at Christ’s feet to learn wisdom,
but his Book, from its genesis to close,
said: “Men can enslave their own brothers!”
(I soon noticed he lacked any clothes.)

So I traveled to bright Tel Aviv
where great scholars with lofty IQs
informed me that (since I’m an Arab)
I’m unfit to lick dirt from their shoes.

At last, done with learning, I stumbled
to a well where the waters seemed sweet:
the mirage of American “justice.”
There I wept a real sea, in defeat.

Originally published by Café Dissensus

Keywords/Tags: Einstein, Adolph, ******, Berlin, Jew, Jews, Arab, Arabs, Palestinian, Palestinians, Vietnam, Vietnamese, American, Americans, Yankees, Domino, Theory, Dominoes, Jesus, Christ, Bible, Christian, Christianity, Slave, Slaves, Slavery, Israel, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv
Just was a desert,
a land of sand,
Where people got nothing
but tanned,

When years passed
and they discovered oil,
Time had come for them to uncoil,

Thus riches and wealth
knew no bounds,
Now world’s tallest
skyscrapers surrounds,

They pray five times a day,
No wonder god has blessed
them so much they say,

The dollar world itself
looks at it with awe,
Afraid of losing it’s glamour
tries pointing each flaw,

Not worried they still continue
to grow with pride,
Tired finally the dollar
world tries to bribe,

Wealth should be shared
between the brothers I feel,
To those of whom one meal
a day is a big deal…
September 2017
J Nc Dec 2019
Golden olive arab eyes
Gods only know that look belies
Raw emotions there residing
A force, to rival time or tide
Or maybe just a passing thought of passion from ago

Anadulterated love or hate
Her capacity for each, so great
Mercurial, maternal journal
Of passing days with eyes alit
On fire, in frenzy, champs at bit
Or maybe she'll just dance

Or sing a song, puff on her ****
Shes fine as **** in nets or thong
But classy, unlike wiry roughnecks
Trying to tag along

My goddess of the cradle,
She'll send me to my grave
From hair breaths,
A hairs breadth before I drown in satin

Her love shines through like bright white linen,
She lights me up
In prayers, in sinnin
Frantically, she gives her all
She spends herself
Heeds every call
For help they ask and ask and take
Dont tell her that love conquers all
She knows thats ****
And shes no doll of fragile porcelain,
She'll fall and bounce right back but better
Howd i ******* go and get her
To fall for me, cause im no catch
A schlub from that ol black gold patch
An angel, just like Lucifer
Was, upon a time
She sees in me what I can't see
And when those eyes are cast on me
I wither like the ashes of burnt paper
Or my life
I hope some day she'll let me (if i were her, i wouldnt, bet me)
Make my queen my love-ed wife
J Nc 12-31-19
Sabila Siddiqui Dec 2019
A nation that seeks to craft
what the forefathers draft;
a declaration of independence,
a nation of acceptance and coexistence.

A nation that weaves laws
for the ones of different colors,
and of worship —
building a homage for them all.

A nation with the vision of a blend of culture,
welcoming them into progressing lands  that play the tune of harmony
as blankets them in safety.

A tolerant nation
of multicultural lands,
and foreign tongues.
Building Seven Pillars
that stand tall and high
to inspire and ingrain
tolerance in every
crannies and nooks of the nation.

This is UAE.
b for short Aug 2019
“To us, white girls are exotic,”
says my Arab American boyfriend.
At that moment, my brain ceases
to make sense of those words
in that order.
Exotic? White? Girl?
Me? Me. He means... me.
So this is what I say
to my Arab American boyfriend
who has
more culture in his pinky
than all of white America combined.
From what I can tell,
to be white in America is
boring static,
AM radio on a Sunday morning
with a broken dial
on a back road in the boonies.
It is the culture born by everything borrowed but wrongfully claimed
as its own invention.
To be white, in America, tastes like
cream of wheat
with no hope of brown sugar.
It is a tumbleweed-kind-of-rootless
and just as desert dry.
It is colorless, odorless, tasteless—
and will choke you slowly
if you don’t build up a tolerance.
if you’re lucky enough
to be white in America,
for about a hundred bucks
and a swab of the cheek,
the Internet can tell you
where you came from.
Even if that makes you feel cultured,
tomorrow you will wake up
and still be
white in America.
To be white in America, I thought,
was as far from exotic
as the self-loathing, middle aged guy
behind the counter
at your local DMV.
But white girls, he says, are exotic.
Perhaps it’s because pumpkin spice
oozes from my pasty pores,
or that “there ain’t no laws
when you’re drinkin’ the Claws.”
Maybe he couldn’t resist the fact
that the Starbucks barista
knows my order
better than my name,
or that my hair blowdries pin straight—
no matter the time of year.
I wonder if it’s the combo of
black leggings, messy buns,
and work out tanks—
or the fact that I think I’m saving the whole ******* sea turtle population
with my stainless steel straw.
Maybe it’s my compulsive nature
to buy in bulk, to pet every dog I see,
and to cry over Queer Eye episodes.
It couldn’t possibly be
the steady diet of rom coms,
my collection of Birkenstocks,
or the apple cinnamon candle
burning on my windowsill
that reminds me of “fall y’all,”
but then again, who knows?
To me, my whiteness is a privilege
that will forever be misinterpreted
as entitlement by every person
who checks that “white” box
on the form
without checking themselves too.

“To us, white girls are exotic,” he says.

White girl is just happy
he likes her in spite of it.
Copyright Bitsy Sanders, August 2019
Next page