IN JERUSALEM. A Poem by Mahmoud Darwish, Palestine’s national poet

In Jerusalem

In Jerusalem, and I mean within the ancient walls,
I walk from one epoch to another without a memory
to guide me. The prophets over there are sharing
the history of the holy … ascending to heaven
and returning less discouraged and melancholy, because love
and peace are holy and are coming to town.
I was walking down a slope and thinking to myself: How
do the narrators disagree over what light said about a stone?
Is it from a dimly lit stone that wars flare up?
I walk in my sleep. I stare in my sleep. I see
no one behind me. I see no one ahead of me.
All this light is for me. I walk. I become lighter. I fly
then I become another. Transfigured. Words
sprout like grass from Isaiah’s messenger
mouth: “If you don’t believe you won’t be safe.”
I walk as if I were another. And my wound a white
biblical rose. And my hands like two doves
on the cross hovering and carrying the earth.
I don’t walk, I fly, I become another,
transfigured. No place and no time. So who am I?
I am no I in ascension’s presence. But I
think to myself: Alone, the prophet Muhammad
spoke classical Arabic. “And then what?”
Then what? A woman soldier shouted:
Is that you again? Didn’t I kill you?
I said: You killed me … and I forgot, like you, to die.

Mahmoud Darwish (1942 – 2008) is regarded as Palestine’s national poet. He voiced the resilience and humanity of Palestinians while also exploring solitude, love and togetherness. His poems have been translated into more than 20 languages. He was born in the village of al-Birweh in Galilee, Palestine. His family fled to neighbouring Lebanon in 1948 when the Israeli army destroyed their village. From 1970 to 1996, Mahmoud lived in Moscow, Cairo, Beirut, Cyprus and Paris. He returned to live in Ramallah, one of the main cities in Palestine. He wrote the 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence and resigned in opposition to the Oslo Accords. He received several international awards. He died in a hospital in Houston, Texas, aged 60, right after an operation for heart disease.  The Palestinian government declared three days of national mourning. Mahmoud Darwish once said: “The Jew will not be ashamed to find an Arab element in himself, and the Arab will not be ashamed to declare that he incorporates Jewish elements.” The nation’s beloved poet lies buried in Ramallah.

Mahmoud Darwish
Translated by Fady Joudah (a Palestinian poet/doctor who lives in the USA)
Bloodaxe Books
ISBN. 978 1 85224.
Published 2007
324 pages

Large painting shows solidary of suffering of Palestinian women. Notice painting shows the women soaked in blood red of loved ones and dealing with an ocean of grief. Painting assembled in squares. Artist kindly brought her work for me to see in Nablus, Palestine in 2005 during one of my visits teaching workshops on resolving suffering. The artist assembled the painting on the floor of the living room of my hosts, a couple dedicated to the application of non-violence to end the occupation. The husband spent 16 years as a political prisoner in Israel. His wife spent eight years in another political prison.

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