Mural

(1999, an excerpt)

by Mahmoud Darwish
published in MER248

I will walk in my footsteps down the old path through the sea air
no woman will see me passing under her balcony
I have of memories only those necessary for the long journey
Days contain all they need of tomorrows
I was smaller than my eyelashes and my two dimples
So take my sleepiness
and hide me in the story of the tender evening
Hide me under one of the two date palms
and teach me poetry
So I can learn how to walk beside Homer
So I can add to the story a description of Akka
the oldest of the beautiful cities
the most beautiful of the old cities
A box of stone
where the living and dead move in the dry clay
like bees captive in a honeycomb of a hive
and each time the siege tightens
they go on a flower hunger strike
and ask the sea to indicate the emergency exit

Teach me poetry
in case a girl needs a song
for her distant beloved:
Take me to you even by force and prepare my
bed in your hands
And they walked interlaced towards the echo
as though I had married a runaway fawn to a gazelle
and opened the church door for the pigeons

Teach me poetry
She who spun the wool shirt
and waits by the door
is first to speak of the horizon and despair:
The fighter hasn’t returned and won’t return
and you are not the you I was waiting for

I saw myself like Christ on the lake….
But I came down from the cross because of my fear
of heights
and I don’t preach the apocalypse
all that I changed was my pace the better to hear the
voice of my heart…
Eagles are for bards
for me
the dove’s collar
a star abandoned on the roof
and a winding alley leading to the port
This sea is mine
This sea air is mine
This quayside with my footsteps and sperm upon it…is mine
And the old bus station is mine
And my ghost and its master are mine
And the copper utensils and the verse of the throne
and the key are mine
And the door and the guards and bells are mine
The horseshoe flung over the ramparts is mine
All that was mine is mine
Paper scraps torn from the gospels are mine
Salt from the tears on the wall of the house are mine…
And my name mispronounced with its five horizontal letters
my name… is mine:

mim/ of lovesickness, of the orphan, of those who complete
the past
ha/ of the garden and love, of two muddles and two losses
mim/ of the rake, of the lovesick, of the exile prepared for a
death foretold
waw/ of farewells, of the central flower, of fidelity to birth
wherever it may be and of a parent’s promise
dal/ of the guide, of the path of tears, of a studied galaxy and
a sparrow who cajoles me and makes me bleed

This name is mine…
and also my friends’ wherever they may be
And my temporary body is mine
present or absent…
Two metres of this earth will be enough for now
a meter and 75 centimeters for me
and the rest for flowers in a riot of color
who will slowly drink me
And what was mine is mine: my yesterday
and what will be in the distant tomorrow in the return
of the fugitive soul
as if nothing has been
and as if nothing has been
A light wound on the arm of the absurd present
History taunting its victims
and its heroes…
throwing them a glance and passing on
This sea is mine
This sea air is mine
And my name—if I mispronounce it on my coffin—is mine
And as for me—full of all reasons for leaving—
I am not mine
I am not mine
I am not mine

—Translated by Rema Hammami and John Berger

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