In anticipation of our forthcoming interview with poet and translator Fady Joudah, we’re happy to present the following excerpt from Mahmoud Darwish’s sequence Eleven Planets at the End of the Andalusian Scene, printed in the newly released If I Were Another (FSG, October 2009, $28). A special thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for permission to reprint this excerpt.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀HOW DO I WRITE ABOVE THE CLOUDS?
How do I write above the clouds my kin’s will? And my kin
leave time behind as they leave their coats in the houses, and my kin
whenever they build a fortress they raze it to erect above it
a tent of longing for the early palm trees. My kin betray my kin
in wars of defending salt. But Granada is gold
and silken words embroidered with almonds, silver tears in
the oud string. Granada is for the great ascension to herself…
and she can be however she desires to be: the longing for
anything that has passed or will pass: a swallow’s wing scratches
a woman’s breast in bed, and she screams: Granada is my body.
A man loses his gazelle in the wilderness and screams: Granada is my country.
And I come from there. So sing for the sparrows to build from my ribs
a stairway to the proximal sky. Sing the gallantry of those ascending to their fate
moon by moon in the lovers’ alley. Sing the birds of the garden
stone by stone. How I love you, you, who tore me
string by string on her way to her hot night … sing!
There is no morning for coffee’s scent after you, sing my departure
from the cooing of pigeons on your knees, and from my soul’s nest
in the letters ofyour easy name, Granada is for song, so sing!
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀I HAVE BEHIND THE SKY A SKY
I have behind the sky a sky for my return, but I
am still polishing the metal of this place, and living
an hour that foresees the unknown. I know time
will not be my ally twice, and I know I will exit
my banner as a bird that does not alight on trees in the garden.
I will exit all of my skin, and my language.
And some talk about love will descend in
Lorca poems that will live in my bedroom
and see what I have seen of the bedouin moon. I will exit
the almond trees as cotton on the brine of the sea. The stranger passed
carrying seven hundred years of horses. The stranger passed
right here, for the stranger to pass over there. I will soon exit
the wrinkles ofmy time as a stranger to Syria and the Andalus.
This earth is not my sky, yet this sky is my evening
and the keys are mine, the minarets are mine, the lanterns are mine, and I
am also mine. I am the Adam of two Edens, I lost them twice.
So expel me slowly,
and kill me quickly,
beneath my olive tree,
with Lorca …
Mahmoud Darwish was born in the village of al-Birweh in what was then Western Galilee, Palestine. He published more than twenty volumes of poetry and ten volumes of prose. He was the recipient of numerous awards for both his poetry and his political activism.
Fady Joudah is a physician, poet, and translator. His translation of Mahmoud Darwish’s The Butterfly’s Burden was a finalist for the 2008 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation.