Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Land of Grieving Poets

Passionate poet Mahmoud Darwish died last night. He couldn't have chosen a more symbolic date. 9 in the month of Av on the Jewish calender is a memorial day to the destruction of Jerusalem. So much of Darwish's poetry is dedicated to the destruction of Jerusalem.

Are those two seperate Jerusalems? Not really. The destruction comemorated on Tisha Be'av, which had occured on the year 70 A.D., is certainly so far back in history that we can relate to it only as a symbol. As such - it is a powerful poetic reflection of the losses suffered by the Palestinians during the 20th century. When Darwish's childhood town of Barwa, near Akko, was destroyed by Israel to make place for the Jewish community of Akhihud, that was Jerusalem being destroyed, and so is Tskhinvali, and so is Hiroshima, and so is my grandparents' Shtetls in Slovakia and Poland. We are indebted to Biblical and modern poets for putting our sorrows into words, and to Jerusalem - whether mythical or real - for giving them ashen wings.

"Remember, o lord, what is come upon us.
Consider and behold our reproach.
Our inheritence is turned to strangers,
our houses to aliens.
We are orphans and fatherless,
Our mothers are as widows.
We have drunken our water for money,
Our wood is sold onto us.
Our necks are under persecution,
We labour and have no rest."

- Lamentations, 5, 1-5

"In Jerusalem, and I mean within the ancient walls,
I walk from one epoch to another without a memory
to guide me. The prophets over there are sharing
the history of the holy . . . ascending to heaven
and returning less discouraged and melancholy, because love
and peace are holy and are coming to town.
I was walking down a slope and thinking to myself: How
do the narrators disagree over what light said about a stone?
Is it from a dimly lit stone that wars flare up?
I walk in my sleep. I stare in my sleep. I see
no one behind me. I see no one ahead of me.
All this light is for me. I walk. I become lighter. I fly
then I become another. Transfigured. Words
sprout like grass from Isaiah’s messenger
mouth: “If you don’t believe you won’t believe.”
I walk as if I were another. And my wound a white
biblical rose. And my hands like two doves
on the cross hovering and carrying the earth.
I don’t walk, I fly, I become another,
transfigured. No place and no time. So who am I?
I am no I in ascension’s presence. But I
think to myself: Alone, the prophet Mohammad
spoke classical Arabic. “And then what?”
Then what? A woman soldier shouted:
Is that you again? Didn’t I kill you?
I said: You killed me . . . and I forgot, like you, to die."

- Mahmoud Darwish, "In Jerusalem"

2 comments:

lazy_n said...

Why is Hiroshima in that list?

Yuval said...

a city demolished is a city demolished. Dresden and Rotterdam were others I considered adding.