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Tomorrow is the end of Ramadan
and then comes Eid
(Festival of Breaking the Fast)
In Gaza, it’s unusual, though
Tomorrow might bring an ache
to a weeping mom’s heart
crying over her child
Tomorrow, more leaves,
might fall
They fall
like they are falling in love
with Gaza's land.

Mohammed Arafat
05-11-2021
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



Palestine
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

Record!
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?

Record!
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?

Record!
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!

Record!
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?

Therefore!
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!
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.



Passport
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!

Keywords/Tags: Mahmoud Darwish, Palestine, Palestinian, Arab, Arabic, translation, Gaza, Israel, children, mothers, injustice, violence, war, race, racism, intolerance, ethnic cleansing, genocide
Mohammed Arafat Aug 2020
I tell my God stories

and pray my thoughts out

during the day

and the silence of the night.

“Why is Gaza suffering?”

I whisper to God.

I am heard

and await a response.

Mohammed Arafat
08-26-2020
A crisis after another hits Gaza and its people! Corona Virus hit the strip yesterday and the number of cases is getting higher and higher.
Mohammed Arafat Jul 2020
Dim room.
A small window with a blank curtain
emitting no light.
The ceiling fan is spinning.
No sound is heard.
A French fry container is open
on the floor beside a Washington Post paper
and a big coffee mug, that has no coffee.
An unmoving body has crashed out on a thin mattress.
The smoke from a cigarette between two of his fingers fills the room.
His hand is hesitant to grab the last fry.
It’s probably cold and dry.
It looks delicious
but it won’t taste delicious.
He seems in no mood to eat
after yesterday’s junk food dinner
that he had with his thoughts.
His head is on the pillow that he holds whenever the inner battles begin.
I ask him, “what battles?”
“Of finding a place to call home, of finding a place to call home!” His eyes fill with tears, and he breaks the silence.

Mohammed S Arafat
July 15th, 2020
This poem is dedicated to the refugees of Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and many other war-torn countries, who are still looking for a home.
Mohammed Arafat Jul 2020
Lady, I am staring into your eyes,
in front of everyone.
I see your beauty covered with your sorrow.
I see the real you throughout the words they say.
I see the blooming Jasmin behind your bitter cactus.

Whether they like it or not, I will touch you,
I will touch you and touch you with my mind,
until you get out of the cave of your pain,
and smile to me before them all!

Mohammed Arafat
I fell in love with a girl whose name is the name of the most beautiful shrub that has white flowers with a yummy smell. This poem is dedicated to her.
Michael R Burch May 2020
This Distant Light
by Walid Khazindar
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Bitterly cold,
winter clings to the naked trees.

If only you would free
the bright sparrows
from your fingertips
and release a smile―that shy, tentative smile―
from the imprisoned anguish I see.

Sing! Can we not sing
as if we were warm, hand-in-hand,
sheltered by shade from a sweltering sun?

Can you not always remain this way,
stoking the fire: more beautiful than expected, in reverie?

Darkness increases and we must remain vigilant
since this distant light is our sole consolation ...
this imperiled flame, which from the beginning
has constantly flickered,
in danger of going out.

Come to me, closer and closer.
I don't want to be able to tell my hand from yours.
And let's stay awake, lest the snow smother us.

Walid Khazindar was born in Gaza City. He is considered to be one of the very best Palestinian poets; his poetry has been said to be "characterized by metaphoric originality and a novel thematic approach unprecedented in Arabic poetry." He was awarded the first Palestine Prize for Poetry in 1997. Keywords/Tags: Arabic, translation, Arab, Palestine, Palestinian, Gaza, distant, light, flame, fire, autumn, winter, trees, birds, sparrows, fingertips, smile, sing, shade, sun, fire, darkness, hand, hands, snow
Michael R Burch Apr 2020
For a Palestinian Child, with Butterflies
by Michael R. Burch

Where does the butterfly go ...
when lightning rails ...
when thunder howls ...
when hailstones scream ...
when winter scowls ...
when nights compound dark frosts with snow ...
where does the butterfly go?

Where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill,
beyond the capacity of moonlight to fill?
When the only relief’s a banked fire’s glow,
where does the butterfly go?

And where shall the spirit flee
when life is harsh, too harsh to face,
and hope is lost without a trace?
Oh, when the light of life runs low,
where does the butterfly go?

Published by Tucumcari Literary Review, Romantics Quarterly, Poetry Life & Times, Victorian Violet Press (where it was nominated for a “Best of the Net”), The Contributor (a Nashville homeless newspaper), Siasat (Pakistan), and set to music as a part of the song cycle “The Children of Gaza” which has been performed in various European venues by the Palestinian soprano Dima Bawab. Keywords/Tags: butterfly, children, storm, lightning, thunder, hailstones, snow, frost, night, shelter, comfort, safety, rose, fire, warmth, Holocaust, Nakba, Gaza, Trail of Tears, slavery, injustice, abuse, ethnic cleansing, genocide
Michael R Burch Mar 2020
Such Tenderness
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers of Gaza

There was, in your touch, such tenderness—as
only the dove on her mildest day has,
when she shelters downed fledglings beneath a warm wing
and coos to them softly, unable to sing.

What songs long forgotten occur to you now—
a babe at each breast? What terrible vow
ripped from your throat like the thunder that day
can never hold severing lightnings at bay?

Time taught you tenderness—time, oh, and love.
But love in the end is seldom enough ...
and time?—insufficient to life’s brief task.
I can only admire, unable to ask—

what is the source, whence comes the desire
of a woman to love as no God may require?

Keywords/Tags: Gaza, mothers, touch, tenderness, dove, shelter, wing, coos, sings, babies, fledglings, love, god
Michael R Burch Mar 2020
Frail Envelope of Flesh
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of Gaza

Frail envelope of flesh,
lying cold on the surgeon’s table
with anguished eyes
like your mother’s eyes
and a heartbeat weak, unstable ...

Frail crucible of dust,
brief flower come to this—
your tiny hand
in your mother’s hand
for a last bewildered kiss ...

Brief mayfly of a child,
to live two artless years!
Now your mother’s lips
seal up your lips
from the Deluge of her Tears ...

Note: The phrase "frail envelope of flesh" was one of my first encounters with the power of poetry, although I read it in a superhero comic book as a young boy (I forget which one). More than thirty years later, the line kept popping into my head, so I wrote this poem. I have dedicated it to the mothers and children of Gaza and the Nakba. The word Nakba is Arabic for "Catastrophe."

Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

For a Palestinian Child, with Butterflies
by Michael R. Burch

Where does the butterfly go
when lightning rails,
when thunder howls,
when hailstones scream,
when winter scowls,
when nights compound dark frosts with snow ...
Where does the butterfly go?

Where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill
beyond the capacity of moonlight to fill?
When the only relief's a banked fire's glow,
where does the butterfly go?

And where shall the spirit flee
when life is harsh, too harsh to face,
and hope is lost without a trace?
Oh, when the light of life runs low,
where does the butterfly go?

Such Tenderness
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers of Gaza

There was, in your touch, such tenderness—as
only the dove on her mildest day has,
when she shelters downed fledglings beneath a warm wing
and coos to them softly, unable to sing.

What songs long forgotten occur to you now—
a babe at each breast? What terrible vow
ripped from your throat like the thunder that day
can never hold severing lightnings at bay?

Time taught you tenderness—time, oh, and love.
But love in the end is seldom enough ...
and time?—insufficient to life’s brief task.
I can only admire, unable to ask—

what is the source, whence comes the desire
of a woman to love as no God may require?

Keywords/Tags: Frail, envelope, flesh, Gaza, Palestinian, children, mothers, tiny, hand, kiss, mayfly, deluge, tears, epitaph, grave, butterflies
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