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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
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.
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.
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
Nothing Remains
by Fadwa Tuqan the "Poet of Palestine"
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Tonight, we're together,
but tomorrow you'll be hidden from me again,
thanks to life's cruelty.

The seas will separate us...
Oh! Oh! If only I could see you!
But I'll never know
where your steps led you,
which routes you took,
or to what unknown destinations
your feet were compelled.

You will depart and the thief of hearts,
the denier of beauty,
will rob us of all that's dear to us,
will steal this happiness from us,
leaving our hands empty.

Tomorrow at sunrise you'll vanish like a phantom,
dissipating into a delicate mist
dissolving quickly in the summer sun.

Your scent! Your scent contains the essence of life,
filling my heart
as the earth absorbs the lifegiving rain.

I will miss you like the fragrance of trees
when you leave tomorrow,
and nothing remains.

Just as everything beautiful and all that's dear to us
is lost! Lost, and nothing remains.

Fadwa Tuqan (1917-2003), the Grande Dame of Palestinian letters, is also known as "The Poet of Palestine." She is generally considered to be one of the very best contemporary Arab poets. Keywords/Tags: Fadwa Tuqan, Palestine, Palestinian, Arabic, translation, nothing, remains, parting, separation, loss
Existence
by Fadwa Tuqan the "Poet of Palestine"
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In my solitary life, I was a lost question;
in the encompassing darkness,
my answer lay concealed.

You were a bright new star
revealed by fate,
radiating light from the fathomless darkness.

The other stars rotated around you
—once, twice —
until I perceived
your unique radiance.

Then the bleak blackness broke
And in the twin tremors
of our entwined hands
I had found my missing answer.

Oh you! Oh you intimate, yet distant!
Don't you remember the coalescence
Of your spirit in flames?
Of my universe with yours?
Of the two poets?
Despite our great distance,
Existence unites us.

Fadwa Tuqan (1917-2003), the Grande Dame of Palestinian letters, is also known as "The Poet of Palestine." She is generally considered to be one of the very best contemporary Arab poets. Keywords/Tags: Fadwa Tuqan, Palestine, Palestinian, Arabic, translation, existence, love, darkness, star, stars, orbit, radiance
Away from the brown soil where I was born,
away from the red strawberries and the yellow corn,
away from the grave of my grandfather who taught me farming,
and away from my family-jammed home with no backyard or swing,
I sing of my far land,
in which my dreams grew,
with no end.
I sing for the land that gave me patience,
that gave me bravery,
that planted love in me,
which became high green trees,
reaching the skies of other hearts,
I sing for the land where love lives,
with hate trying to replace it.

I still sing of my land,
for which I long night after night
song after song,
curse after curse,
tear after tear,
nightmare after another.

I still sing of my land,
where I lost friends and family,
where good people die, not of hunger,
but of oppression,
where good and bad exist,
where easy gets complex,
where stories are narrated by silence,
voices are heard from the dead,
and decisions are made by the foolish.
I still sing for it,
where infants are born political,
and their worrying about their rights becomes their toys.

I sing of the land, where brains are washed with fear and hate,
where farms are separated with walls,
where people are split by destruction,
where rubble shelter children,
where hearts are divided by revenge.

I will still sing for my land,
for what it gives me,
and for what it takes from me…

Mohammed Arafat
09-04-2020
I was talking to someone dear to my heart, and we both shared photos of passports. The name of my country (Palestine) on the Passover  reminded me of how much I love my homeland. My  love to my land no matter how much it gives me and how much it takes from me
who, US?
by Michael R. Burch

jesus was born
a palestinian child
where there’s no Room
for the meek and the mild

... and in bethlehem still
to this day, lambs are born
to cries of “no Room!”
and Puritanical scorn ...

under Herod, Trump, Bibi
their fates are the same —
the slouching Beast mauls them
and WE have no shame:

“who’s to blame?”

What is happening to Palestinian children in Gaza and the West Bank is a crime against humanity, financed by American taxpayer dollars. Keywords/Tags: Palestine, Palestinian, children, Gaza, West Bank, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jesus, Christ, meek, mild, lamb, lambs, kids, Herod, Trump, Bibi, slouching, Beast, American, Christians, shame, blame
Khan BA Mar 11
Hey give me a hand
Hey please give me a hand
Have mercy on me, at least
Give me something just to eat
I have been hungry for over a year
Don't you all have His fear
Don't you see I am all bones
The flesh eaten away by war & drones
There is no roof over my head
Only mother Earth my all time bed
The bullets & shells took away all
Until I couldn't stand the fall
I am feeble & can not move
This hunger has eaten even my torso
While the World watches me die
How will it face the Creator with its lie
For I will not forgive you on that day
When I will stand tall on the Judgement day.

(Khan, BA)
For those hungry orphans of Yemen and Syria
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