Sunday, 10 January 2010

MAHMOUD DARWISH - The Poet of the Resistance. (13/4/41- 9/8/08)

Sometimes words are all we need,sometimes we take things for granted. I am Welsh and I know my land. I know how far my border stretches, I am free. Then there is Palestine, a place where innocent women and children have been caught in a political, religious conflict for many a year.
Thousands left homeless by bombing, unable to repair physically or mentally by a continued embargo of food, materials, medical help - by Zionist oppression. This state of being still continues, broken in recent days only by the extreme efforts of humanists on convoy after a months struggle to reach the beleagered. Surely the humanist in all races, religions should transcend any political, aggressive stance of any nation against another.
Countries cannot be made out of imaginary sands. Borders create unnecessary demands on the innocent.The Palestinians now refuse their own destruction and drawing some kind of hope from universal truth continue to defy and deny the illegality of another countries oppressive spirit - this is why their culture continues to endure. The Palestinians have been under siege long enough now. They have not been silenced. I understand there resiliant cries when faced with walls and silence. There have been many crimes committed in many names. In spite of this the importance of poetry, music and literature to the Palestinian sense of identity should never be underestimated.
Personally I have always been able to walk free and have been uncensored in the words that I have been able to use or read. I have not experienced forms of oppression and the humiliation. I am still able to say I live in a land called Wales, I am not forced to live my life in enforced exile. My country is not currently under military occupation, so I shout viva Palestine with no apologies.
The 1970s saw the emergence of probably Palestine's greatest poet, Mahmoud Darwish, whose poem Identity Card is one of the most powerful Palestinian anti-oppression poems ever written. Mahmoud Darwish was born in al-Birwa, Western Galilee in a village that was occupied and later razed to the ground by the Israeli army. Because they had misused the official Israeli census, he and his family were considered 'internal refugees' pr 'present absent aliens'' His rich poems also speak of longing, dispossession and exile. A cosmopolitan man he cited Rimbaud and Ginsberg as influences. A writer of over thirty volumes of poetry , he became to be regarded as potent Palestinian symbol and spokesman for Arabs opposition to the state of Israel.He rejected antisemitism as we all should saying " The accusation is that I hate Jews. Its not comfortable that they show me as a devil and an enemy of Israel. I am not a lover of Israel, of course. I have no reason to be. But I don't hate Jews ". He wrote in Arabic but was also fluent in English, French and Hebrew. He believed strongly that peace was one day goin to be achievable, he did not give up hope. His work celebrated diversity and a world currently threatened by globalization. His poems were published widely across the Arab World an essential breath on the Palestinian experience. He was awarded numerous awards for his literary talents and when he died he was buried in Ramallah with thousands of Palestinians coming out to honor and mourn his departure. The following are a selection of this Palestinians hymns to resistance who despite his harsh climate once said "Sarcasm helps me overcome the harshness of the reality that we live, eases the pain of scars and makes people smile. The sarcasm is not only related to today's reality but also to history. History laughs at both the victim and the aggressor. "


I am an Arab
and my identity card is number fifty
I have eight children
and the ninth
is coming in midsummer

I am an Arab
employed with fellow workers
at a quarry

I have eight children
to get them bread
and books
from the rocks-
I do not supplicate
at your doors
Nor do I belittle myself
at the footsteps of your chamber
So will you be angry?

I am an Arab
without a name - without title
in a patient country
with people enraged
My roots-
were entrenched before the birth of time
and before the opening of the eras
before the olive trees, athe
pines and grass

My father
descends from the family of the plow
not from a privileged class
And my grandfather-
was a farmer
neither well-bred, nor well-born
And my house-
is like a watchman's hut
This is my status
Does it satisfy you?
I have a name but no title

I am an Arab
The color of my hair is black
The color of my eyes is brown
And my distinctive features:
The head dress hatta wi'gal
And the hand is solid like a rock
my favourite meal
is olive oil and thyme
And my address:

A village isolated and deserted
where the streets have no names
and the men work in the fields and quarries
They like socialism
Will you be angry?

I am an Arab
You have stolen the orchards
of my ancestors
and the land
which I cultivated
Along with my children
And you left us with those rocks
so will the State take them
as it has been said ?

Record on the top of the first page:
I do not hate man
Nor do I encroach
But if I become hungry
The usurper's flesh will be my food

Beware beware of my hunger
and my anger!!


I walk the streets of the West Bank
With out fear, though the pirates drank
My spilt blood. My feet are torn,
Swollen by a dagger- rooted in the land
Where we walk, band after bold band!
We are a soft breeze to our fiends,
And gunpowder against hostile trends:
We march, and act, and we never sleep,
Because we have promises to keep:
Freedom beckons along the horizons afar,
Leading our footsteps, like the polar star.
We spare no effort, sacrifice or toil
Till we celebrate the liberty of our soil.


We journey towards a home not of our flesh. Its chestnut trees are not of our bones.
Its rocks are not like goats in the mountain hymn. The pebbles eyes are not lilies.
We journey towards a home that does not halo our heads with a special sun.
Mythical women applaud us. A sea for us, a sea against us.
When water and wheat are not at hand, eat our love and drink our tears...
There are mourning scarves for poets. A row of marble statues will lift our voice.
And an urn to keep the dust of time away from our souls. Roses for us and agaist us.
You have your glory, we have ours. Of our home we only see the unseen:
our mystery.
Glory is ours: a throne carried on feet torn by roads that led to every home
but our own!
The soul must recognise itself in its very soul, or die here.

translated by Munir Akasha


They did not recognise me in the shadows
That suck away my color in this Passport
And to them my wound was an exhibit
For a tourist who loves to collect photographs
They did not recognise me,
Ah... Don't leave
The palm of my hand without the sun
Because the trees recognise me
Don't leave me pale like the moon!

All the birds that followed my palm
to the door of the distant airport
All the wheat fields
All the prisons
All the white tombstones
All the barbed boundaries
All the waving handkerchiefs
All the eyes
were with me,
But they dropped them from my passport

Stripped of my name and identity?
On a soil I nourished with my own hands?
Today Jacob cried out
Filling the sky:
Don't make an example of me again!

Oh, gentlemen, Prophets,
Don't ask the trees for their names
Don't ask the valley who their mother is
From my forehead bursts the sword of light
And from my hand springs the waterof the river
All the hearts of the people are my identity
So take away my passport!


It is possible
It is possible at least sometimes
It is possible especially now
To ride a horse
Inside a prison cell
And run away...

It is possible for prison walls
To dissapear
For the cell to become a distant land
Without frontiers

What did you do with the walls?
I gave them back to the rocks.
And what did you do with the ceiling?
I turned it into a saddle.
And your chain?
I turned it into a pencil.

The prison guard got angry
he put an end to the dialoque.
He said he didn't care for poetry,
And bolted the door of my cell.

He came back to see me
in the morning.
He shouted at me:

Where did all this water come from?
I bought it from the Nile.
And the trees?
From the orchards of Damascas
And the music?
From my heartbeat.

The prison guard got mad.
He put an end to my dialoque.
He said he didn't like my poetry,
And bolted the door of my cell.

But he returned in the evening:

Where did this moon come from?
From the nights of Baghdad.
And the wine?
From the vineyards of Algiers.
And this freedom?
From the chain you tied me with last night.

The prison guard grew so sad...
He begged me to give him back
His freedom.

Translated by Ben Bennai


Wait for her with an azure cup.
Wait for her in the evening at the spring, among perfumed roses.
Wait for her with the patience of a horse trained for mountains.
Wait for her with the distinctive, aesthetic taste of a prince.
Wait for her with the seven pillows of cloud.
Wait for her with strands of womanly incense wafting.
Wait for her with the manly scent of sandalwood on horseback.
Wait for her and do not rush.
If she arrives late, wait for her.
If she arrives early, wait for her.
Do not frighten the birds in her braided hair.
Take her to the balcony to watch the moon drowning in milk.
Wait for her and offer her water before wine.
Do not glance at the twin partridges sleeping on her chest.
Wait and gently touch her hand as she sets a cup on marble.
As if you are carrying the dew for her, wait.
Speak to her as a flute would to a frightened violin string,
As if you knew what tomorrow would bring.
Wait, and polish the night for her ring by ring.
Wait for her until the night speaks to you thus:
There is no one alive but the two of you.
So take her gently to the death you so desire,
and wait.  

Wait for her- Mahmoud Darwish with Le Tri Joubren
truly magical


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. all are born free,until politicians decide otherwise.

  3. Those poems really convey a sense of entrapment and desperation that has really moved me. Thanks so much for raising awareness of Palestine's artistic defiance here!

  4. this is absolutely awesome, thank you Dave..some great poems fromhis broken heart

  5. most welcome pam, one of the greatest poets we have known, who used his pen to capture and forge the collective memory of palestinian experience.