What makes a poem subversive? Expressing a common humanity? Refuting identities thrust at us? Turning the pen against injustices? Appreciating beauty in people? Confronting history? Telling stories of life as it is? Singing of sadness, regret and anger? Ironical, but the answer is yes.
Darwish was born in the village of al-Birwa in the Western Galilee. In a hard hitting poem, he describes the violence that Palestinians face on day to day basis. Its full force comes not from harsh angry words but soft, melancholy tones of lost relationships, death, dreams and colours.
1. Last Passage
"The Earth is closing on us
pushing us through the last passage
and we tear off our limbs to pass through.
The Earth is squeezing us.
I wish we were its wheat
so we could die and live again.
I wish the Earth was our mother
so she’d be kind to us.
I wish we were pictures on the rocks
for our dreams to carry as mirrors.
We saw the faces of those who will throw
our children out of the window of this last space.
Our star will hang up mirrors.
Where should we go after the last frontiers?
Where should the birds fly after the last sky?
Where should the plants sleep after the last breath of air?
We will write our names with scarlet steam.
We will cut off the hand of the song to be finished by our flesh.
We will die here, here in the last passage.
Here and here our blood will plant its olive tree."
2. They Would Love To See Me Dead
"They would love to see me dead, so they say: He belongs to us, he is ours.
For twenty years I have heard their footsteps on the walls of the night.
They open no door, yet here they are now. I see three of them:
A poet, a killer, and a reader of books.
Will you have some wine? I asked.
Yes, they answered.
When do you plan to shoot me? I asked.
Take it easy, they answered.
They lined up their glasses all in a row and started singing for the people.
I asked: When will you begin my assassination?
Already done, they said ... Why did you send your shoes on ahead to your soul?
So it can wander the face of the earth, I said.
The earth is wickedly dark, so why is your poem so white?
Because my heart is teeming with thirty seas, I answered.
They asked: Why do you love French wine?
Because I ought to love the most beautiful women, I answered.
They asked: How would you like your death?
Blue, like stars pouring from a window—would you like more wine?
Yes, we'll drink, they said.
Please take your time. I want you to kill me slowly so I can write my last
poem to my heart's wife. They laughed, and took from me
only the words dedicated to my heart's wife. "