By Ibtisam Barakat
Dear Mahmoud Darwish:
What are poems to do when the poet dies! How are words to mourn their maker. What are the people who leaned on the poet for birthing moons into the darkest regions of the night say to their children when they ask for more light that can only be found in the heart of a poet.
Mahmoud Darwish: your poems were the moons that guided our nights.. and a geography of a world that has Palestine on the map, and has us on the map too – living, loving, planting wheat and climbing olive trees, harvesting fruits the shape of tiny galaxies… or climbing all the way to the sky -- to pluck hope.
Your poetry has a Carmel Mountain that does not discriminate between butterflies brushing by its skin. Does not think one wave of the Mediterranean is more important than the other as they gallop into the shore and into its permanent gaze. The sea wins. The eye of life wins by a new image of what is possible and what is poetry.
Your poetry has an intact heart that flowers into poems like a profuse star jasmine bush flowers into fragrance in Ramallah where you will be buried -- like a meaning of a poem.
O' death, the thief of poets .. the finisher of all poems.. listen to the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish as you guide his spirit to where souls go when they leave the desk, the stage, people and all of their pens behind.. Give him a pen and a paper if he asks to write on the way.
Related Facts: Mahmoud Darwish was born in 1941 in the village of Al-Berweh in historic Palestine. His village was razed down after the creation of Israel in 1948. He experienced exile in his own home and in many other countries. He lived in Lebanon, the Soviet Union, France, Jordan, Egypt and other countries until he returned to Ramallah after the Oslo Agreements. He wrote more than 30 books of poetry and prose that were translated from Arabic to at least 20 languages. He died at a hospital in Texas on August 9, 2008. He will be buried in Ramallah, West Bank. An area in Ramallah will be named after him.
One of the last poems of Mahmoud Darwish is:
THINK OF OTHERS
(Translated from Arabic by Ibtisam Barakat)
As you prepare your breakfast think of others.
Don’t forget to feed the pigeons.
As you conduct your wars think of others.
Don’t forget those who want peace.
As you pay your water bill think of others.
Think of those who only have clouds to drink from.
As you go home, your own home, think of others
Don’t forget those who live in tents.
As you sleep and count the planets think of others
There are people who have no place to sleep.
As you liberate yourself with metaphors think of others
Those who have lost their right to speak
And as you think of distant others
Think of yourself and say
“I wish I were a candle in the darkness.”
Ibtisam Barakat is the author of Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007)