Mahmoud Darwish (15 March 1941, al Birwa, Palestine – 9 August 2008, Houston, Exile)

Text from a poem from the book Fewer Roses (1986) by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. (Light installation by Jenny Holzer. Photo by Phil Gyford.)

He Embraced His Murderer

He embraces his murderer.
May he win his heart: Do you feel angrier if I survive?
Brother...My brother! What did I do to make you destroy me?
Two birds fly overhead. Why don't you shoot upwards? What do you say?
You grew tired of my embrace and my smell. Aren't you just as tired of the fear within me?
Then throw your gun in the river! What do you say?
The enemy on the riverbank aim his machine gun at an embrace? Shoot the enemy!
Thus we avoid the enemy's bullets and keep from falling into sin.
What do you say? You'll kill me so the enemy can go to our home
and descend again into the law of the jungle?
What did you do with my mother's coffee, with your mother's coffee?
What crime did I commit to make your destroy me?
I will never cease embracing you.
And I will never release you.

*** Updates *** See this Eulogy to Darwish by one of his translators into English, Fady Joudah. The New York Times obituary (Thanks, Echo!). And also a very thoughtful discussion of translations of Darwish and his place in the Arabic and world literary stage by Hosam Aboul-Ela on the Words without Borders site. También, información en español en La Jornada.