Sunday 17 February 2008
Mahmoud Darwish: As the Land is the Language
If you are the last of what god told me, be
the pronoun revealed to double the "I". Blessedness is ours
now that almond trees have illuminated the footprints of passersby, here
on your banks, where above you grouse and doves flutter
With a gazelle's horn you stabbed the sky, then words flowed
like dew in nature's veins. What a poem's name
before the duality of creation and truth, between the faraway sky
and your cedar bed, when blood longs for blood, and marble arches?
A myth will need to sunbathe around you. This crowdedness,
these gods of Egypt and Sumer under the palm trees change their dresses
and their days' names, and complete their journey to the end of rhyme...
And my song needs to breathe: poetry isn't poetry
and prose isn't prose. I dreamt that you are the last of what god told me
when I saw you both in my sleep, then there were words...
In his translator's preface of 'The Butterfly's Burden', Fady Joudah points out that when 'The Stranger's Bed', Mahmud Darwish's first bok of love appeared many readers felt ambivalent about it. It seems to me that that is the price many writers committed to a political cause tend to pay. Audiences, whether involved in the same struggle or not, could feel alienated, or worse, they might feel that their beloved political figure is going soft. But the reader should rest assured for there is nothing soft about the twenty-nine poems that make this volume. There is passion aplenty and longing for his beloved land. This is mixed with some of the more beautiful lines ever written by a living poet. Lines such as: 'If you are the last of what god told me/be
the pronoun revealed to double the "I" where the desire to become one and only with the object of his affection is declared openly and unashamedly. Lines like: 'With a gazelle's horn you stabbed the sky/then words flowed like dew in nature's veins' whereby feelings gush out of the poet's soul baring the genesis of his poetry. These poems show that a writer's voice needn't inhabit just the political ether but the deepest realm of the senses, too.