A Lover from Palestine, poem by Mahmoud Darwish

Palestinian Poet, Mahmoud Darwish (1931-2008)

“I have learned and dismantled all the words in order to draw from them a
single word: Home.”  Mahmoud Darwish, Unfortunately, It Was Paradise: Selected Poems

Your eyes are a thorn in my heart
Inflicting pain, yet I cherish that thorn
And shield it from the wind.
I sheathe it in my flesh, I sheathe it, protecting it from night and agony,
And its wound lights the lanterns,
Its tomorrow makes my present
Dearer to me than my soul.
And soon I forget, as eye meets eye,
That once, behind the doors, there were two of us.

Your words were a song
And I tried to sing, too,
But agony encircled the lips of spring.
And like the swallow, your words took wing,
The door of our home and the autumnal threshold migrated,
To follow you wherever led by longing
Our mirrors were shattered,
And sorrow was multiplied a thousand fold.
And we gathered the splinters of sound,
Mastering only the elegy of our homeland!
Together were will plant it in the heart of a lyre,
And on the rooftops of our tragedy we’ll play it
To mutilated moons and to stones.
But I have forgotten, you of the unknown voice:
Was it your departure that rushed the lyre or was it my silence?

Yesterday I saw you in the port,
A long voyager without provisions,
Like an orphan I ran to you,
Asking the wisdom of our forefathers:
How can the ever-verdant orange grove be dragged
To prison, to exile, to a port,
And despite all her travels,
Despite the scent of salt and longing,
Remain evergreen?
I write in my diary:
I love oranges and hate the port
And I write further:
On the dock
I stood, and saw the world through Witter’s eyes
Only the orange peel is ours, and behind me lay the desert.

In the briar-covered mountains I saw you,
A shepherdess without sheep,
Pursued among the ruins.
You were my garden, and I a stranger,
Knocking at the door, my heart,
For upon my heart stand firm
The door and windows, the cement and stones.

I have seen you in casks of water, in granaries,
Broken, I have seen you a maid in night clubs,
I have seen you in the gleam of tears and in wounds.
You are the other lung in my chest;
You are the sound on my lips;
You are water; you are fire.

I saw you at the mouth of the cave, at the cavern,
Hanging your orphans’ rags on the wash line.
In the stoves, in the streets I have seen you.
In the barns and in the sun’s blood.
In the songs of the orphaned and the wretched I have seen you.
I have seen you in the salt of the sea and in the sand.
Yours was the beauty of the earth, of children and of Arabian jasmine.

And I have vowed
To fashion from my eyelashes a kerchief,
And upon it to embroider verses for your eyes,
And a name, when watered by a heart that dissolves in chanting,
Will make the sylvan arbours grow.
I shall write a phrase more precious than honey and kisses:
‘Palestinian she was and still is’.

On a night of storms, I opened the door and the window
To see the hardened moon of our nights.
I said to the night: Run out,
Beyond the darkness and the wall;
I have a promise to keep with words and light.
You are my virgin garden
As long as our songs
Are swords when we draw them.
And you are as faithful as grain
So long as our songs
Keep alive the fertile soil when we plant them.
You are like a palm tree in the mind:
Neither storm nor woodsman’s ax can fell it.
Its braids uncut
By the beasts of desert and forest
But I am the exiled one behind wall and door,
Shelter me in the warmth of your gaze.

Take me, wherever you are,
Take me, however you are.
To be restored to the warmth of face and body,
To the light of heart and eye,
To the salt of bread and song,
To the taste of earth and homeland.
Shelter me in the warmth of your gaze,
Take me, a panel of almond wood, in the cottage of sorrows,
Take me, a verse from the book of my tragedy,
Take me, a plaything or a stone from the house,
So that our next generation may recall
The path of return to our home.

Her eyes and the tattoo on her hands are Palestinian,
Her name, Palestinian,
Her dreams, and sorrow, Palestinian,
Her Kerchief, her feet and body, Palestinian,
Her words and her silence, Palestinian,
Her voice, Palestinian,
Her birth and her death, Palestinian,
I have carried you in my old notebooks
As the fire of my verses,
The sustenance for my journeys.
In your name, my voice rang in the valleys:
I have seen Byzantium’s horses
Even though the battle be different.
Beware, oh beware

The lightning struck by my song in the granite.
I am the flower of youth and the knight of knights!
I am the smasher of idols.
I plant the Levantine borders
With poems that set eagles free.
And in your name I have shouted at the enemy:
Worms, feed on my flesh if ever I slumber,
For the eggs of ants cannot hatch eagles,
And the shell of the adder’s egg
Holds but a snake!
I have seen Byzantium’s horses,
And before it all, I know
That I am the flower of youth and the knight of knights!

© Mahmoud Darwish estate; sorry I don’t know to whom I should credit the translation; photo credit, Mahmoud Darwish at university of Betlehem courtesy of Amer Shomali under CC BY-SA 3.0

Mahmoud Darwish (Arabic: محمود درويش‎, translit. maḥmūd darwīsh, 13 March 1941 – 9 August 2008) was a Palestinian poet and author who was regarded as the Palestinian national poet. He won numerous awards for his works. Darwish used Palestine as a metaphor for the loss of Eden, birth and resurrection, and the anguish of dispossession and exile.He has been described as incarnating and reflecting “the tradition of the political poet in Islam, the man of action whose action is poetry.” He also served as an editor for several literary magazines in Israel. MORE [Wikipedia]



Opportunity Knocks: Calls for Submissions and Competitions

We sit and talk,
quietly, with long lapses of silence
and I am aware of the stream
that has no language, coursing
beneath the quiet heaven of
your eyes
which has no speech
William Carlos Williams, Paterson



CARVE MAGAZINE publishes fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Submissions are free if you are a subscriber. Details HERE.

CHRONICLE BOOKS publishes children’s books and adult trade: cookbooks, fine art, design, photography, pop culture, craft, fashion, beauty, home décor, relationships, lifestyle, and interactive journals, kits, decks, and stationery. No fiction or poetry.  Details HERE on submitting proposals.

PELICAN PUBLISHING publishes an average of seventy titles a year and has about 1500 currently in print. Its catalog includes “art/architecture books, cooking/cookbooks, motivational, popular history (especially Louisiana/regional), children’s books (illustrated and otherwise), and social commentary.” It seeks “writers on the cutting edge of ideas who do not write in cliches, or take the old, tired, unimaginative way of foul language and sex scenes to pad a poor writing effort. We strongly urge writers to be aware of ideas gaining currency. We believe ideas have consequences. One of the consequences is that they lead to best-selling books.”  Guidelines HERE.

SALT HILL JOURNAL, open to submissions from new and emerging as well as established writers and artists, publishes a biannual literary journal that includes fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and art. Reading periods fiction and poetry for 2019/2020 are July 1 through September 30, 2019 and January 1 through March 31, 2020.  Nonfiction submissions are currently open through April 1. No submission fees. No payment. Submission guidelines HERE.


NARRATIVE magazine’s Winter Story Contest is open to all writers, and all entries will be considered for publication. $2,500 First Prize; $1,000 Second Prize; $500 Third Prize; Up to ten finalists receive $100 each. See the guidelines. Read prior winners, and view recent awards won by Narrative authors.

THE MASTERS REVIEW ANTHOLOGY VII Final Weeks to Enter! $5000 Awarded – Ten Writers Recognized “Just over two weeks left to enter our anthology, a collection of ten stories and essays written by the best emerging authors. The ten winners are nationally distributed in a printed book with their stories and essays exposed to top agents, editors, and authors across the country. We are thrilled to have guest judge, Kate Bernheimer, selecting the ten stories that will make up Anthology VIII.” Closes on March 31.
SEQUESTRUM REPRINT AWARDS for previously published fiction and nonfiction close on April 30, 2019. Entry fee. Cash awards and publication. Details HERE.

SIXFOLD.org is accepting contest entries through April 23; $5 to enter | $1000 Fiction and Poetry Prize Sixfold’s process is unique:  Entries are voted on by other writers.  Visit the site to find details on how it works and to enter your writing. Sixfold.org


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