Here, by the downslope of hills, facing the sunset
and time’s muzzle,
near gardens with severed shadows,
we do what the prisoners do,
and what the unemployed do:
we nurture hope.
This siege will extend until we teach our enemies
paradigms of our Jahili poetry.
In siege, life becomes the time
between remembering life’s beginning
and forgetting its end . . .
Life in its entirety,
life with its shortcomings,
hosts neighboring stars
that are timeless . . .
and immigrant clouds
that are placeless.
And life here
How do we bring it back to life!
Here, by the upslopes of smoke, on the house steps
there is no time for time,
we do what ascenders to Allah do:
The soldiers measure the distance between being
with a tank’s scope . . .
We measure the distance between our bodies
and mortar shells . . . with the sixth sense
even if anticipated,
is a first death
so how can I see
sleeping beneath each stone?
When the fighter planes disappear, the doves fly
white, white. Washing the sky’s cheek
with free wings, reclaiming splendor and sovereignty
of air and play. Higher and higher
the doves fly, white white. I wish the sky
were real ( a man passing between two bombs told me)
(To a killer:) If you’d contemplated the victim’s face
and thought, you would have remembered your mother in the gas
chamber, you would have liberated yourself from the rifle’s wisdom
and changed your mind: this isn’t how identity is reclaimed!
(To another killer:) Had you left the fetus
for thirty days, the possibilities would have changed:
the occupation might end and that suckling
would not remember the time of siege,
and he’d grow up a healthy child, become a young man
and study in the same institution with one of your daughters
the ancient history of Asia
and they might fall together in passion’s net
and beget a girl (and she’d be Jewish by birth)
so what have you done then?
Now your daughter has become a widow
and your granddaughter an orphan?
What have you done to your fugitive family
and how did you strike three doves with one shot?
Alone, we are alone to the dregs,
had it not been for the visits of the rainbow
Do we harm anyone? Do we harm any
country, if we were struck, even if from a distance,
just once, with the drizzle of joy?
Our losses: from two martyrs to eight
and ten wounded
and twenty homes
and fifty olive trees,
in addition to the structural defect
that will afflict the poem and the play and the incomplete painting
He tells her: Wait for me by the chasm’s edge
She says: Come . . . come! I am the chasm
A woman told a cloud: Cover my lover
because my clothes are wet with his blood!
If you’re not a rain my love
be a tree
soaked with fertility . . . be a tree
and if you’re not a tree my love
be a stone
soaked with humidity . . . be a stone
and if you’re not a stone my love
be a moon
in the lover’s sleep . . . be a moon
(that’s what a woman said
to her son at this funeral)
The mother said:
I did not see him walking in his blood
I did not see the purple flower on his foot
he was leaning against the wall
and in his hand
a cup of hot chamomile
he was thinking of his tomorrow . . .
“Me, or him”
that’s how war starts. But
it ends in an awkward stance:
“Me and him”
Mahmoud Darwish – The Butterfly’s Burden – A State of Siege – Copper Canyon Press