In Memory of Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008)




Mahmoud Darwish died on August 9th, Nagasaki Day. He had undergone cardiovascular surgery on August 6th.  Hiroshima Day had also been significant for Darwish during the terrifying Israeli destruction of Beirut, Lebanon in 1982 — a Memory of Forgetfulness he achingly documented in prose. “Canvas on the Wall,” originally published in 1969, when Darwish was 28 years old, is just one fitting tribute to this great poet on the fifth anniversary of his death.

– Fady Joudah

 

 Canvas on the Wall
 

…and we keep saying things
about the sunset on the little land, while on the wall
Hiroshima weeps, another night
passes, as all we take from our world
is the form of death
at high noon

Your eyes belong to another age
my body owns another story
and in dream we desire jasmine

Years ago, when the world
dispensed with us and the walls
were difficult to comprehend, aspirin
could return olives, dreams
and windows to their owners
and longing was a game
to distract us from the years

But now we say many things
about wilting wheat in the little land
and on the wall Hiroshima weeps,
a glistening truth-dagger, what we take
from our world, the color of death
at high noon

In the burning of a first kiss
sorrow melts, death sings, I lose
my sadness and croon:
Is there a body that can’t become a voice?

What sorrow
doesn’t embrace the globe
to the singer’s chest?

We keep saying things
about the agony of grass in the little land
while on the wall Hiroshima weeps
a forgotten kiss, what we take
from our world is just the taste of death
at high noon

A thousand rivers jog while the strong
throw dice in a café and the flesh
of martyrs disappears, sometimes in clay
and other times it amuses the poets

And at night, my love, I sip
vanity’s milk from your silence

We say many things
about the loss of color in the little land
and on the wall Hiroshima weeps
a girl that has died

As all we take from our world
is the sound of death
at high noon

                             Translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah

 

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Open to any author writing in English about the Chicanx/Latinx experience, the Rivera Book Prize is committed to the discovery and fostering of extraordinary writing by a first-time or early career author whose work examines the long and varied contributions of Chicanx/Latinx in the US. The Rivera Book Prize aims to provide a platform that showcases the emerging literary talent of the Chicanx/Latinx community, to cultivate the next generation of Chicanx/Latinx writers, and to continue the rich literary memory of Tomás Rivera, Chicano author, poet, activist, and educator.

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