If I Were Another: Poems
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Winner of the PEN USA Literary Award for Translation
Mahmoud Darwish was that rare literary phenomenon: a poet both acclaimed by critics as one of the most important poets in the Arab world and beloved by his readers. His language―lyrical and tender―helped to transform modern Arabic poetry into a living metaphor for the universal experiences of exile, loss, and identity. The poems in this collection, constructed from the cadence and imagery of the Palestinian struggle, shift
between the most intimate individual experience and the burdens of history and collective memory. Brilliantly translated by Fady Joudah, If I Were Another―which collects the greatest epic works of Darwish's mature years―is a powerful yet elegant work by a master poet and demonstrates why Darwish was one of the most celebrated poets of his time and was hailed as the voice and conscience of an entire people.
this court that is wet with tears, confident of its footsteps. Who will lower our flags: we, or they? And who will dictate to us "the treaty of despair," 0 king of dying? Everything has been previously prepared for us, so � o will tear our names from our identities: you, or they? And who will plant in us the speech of wandering: "We could not undo the siege so let's hand our paradise keys to the messenger of peace, and be saved . . ." Truth has two faces, the sacred symbol was a sword for us and
palm tree so I may plant my wheat in Canaan's sacred field . . . Take some wine from my jars, take a page from my god's scripture . . . and a portion of my food. Take the gazelle out of our pastoral song's trap, take a Canaanite woman's prayers on the day of her vineyard's feast, take our methods of irrigation. Learn from us the lessons of the house. Lay a baked brick, and erect the pigeon tower above it to become one of us if you want, a neighbor to our wheat. And take from us the stars of the
return . . . Our days are pastoral, pastoral, between city and tribe. I did not find a private night for your howdah that is laureled with mirage. Yet you said to me: What need do I have for my name without you? Call to me. I created you when you named me, and you killed me when you owned the name . . . how did you kill me while I am the stranger of all this night? Bring me inside the forest of your desire, embrace me, press me, and 1 1 2 spill this pure processional honey over the honeycomb.
Scatter me with what your hands own of the wind then gather me. Because the night surrenders its soul to you, stranger, and each star that sees me knows my family will kill me with the water of lapis lazuli. So as I shatter my urn with my hands - bring me in, and I would have my happy present . . . . . . or did you say something to me that would change my path? - No. My life was outside me. I am one who talks to himself: My last mu'allaqah fell off my palm trees. I am the traveler within me,
hesitated before schooling Job in prolonged patience. And you might have saddled a horse for me to kill me on it. As if my language, wheh I remember forgetfulness, can rescue 1 24 my present. As if I were forever present. Forever a bird. As if my language, since I've known you, has become addicted to its fragility on your white vehicles, higher than the clouds of sleep, when feeling is liberated from the burden of all the elements. Because you and I on God's road are two Sufis who are governed