Tuesday, October 06, 2009

As he draws away

The enemy who drinks tea in our shack has
a mare in smoke, a daughter with
thick eyebrows, brown eyes, long
hair like a night of songs over her shoulders. Her image
doesn't leave him when he comes over to ask for tea. But he
doesn't speak to us about her evening chores, or about
a mare abandoned by songs at the top of a hill...

...In our shack the enemy takes a rest from his gun,
leaving it on my grandfather's chair. He eats our bread
like a guest, dozes on
the wicker chair, caresses our cat's
fur. He always says to us:
Don't blame the victim!
Who is the victim? We ask him
He answers: Blood that the night will never dry...

...The buttons on his uniform sparkles as he draws away.
Good evening to you! Say hello to our well
and to our fig trees. Tread gently on
our shadow in the barley fields. Say hello, higher up, to
our pines. Don't forget to lock the gate
at night. Don't forget the horse's
fear of airplanes
And greet us, there, if time allows...

These words that we'd wished
to say at the door... he hears them,
hears them well, but hides them in a quick cough
and tosses them aside
So why does he visit the victim every evening?
And memorize our proverbs, like us?
And repeat our songs of
our own appointments in the holy place?
Were it not for the gun
the flute would pass into the flute...

...The war will last as long as the earth
in us revolves around itself!
Let's be good then. He used to ask us
to be good. He'd read the verses
of Yeat's Airman: Those that I fight
I do not hate, those that I guard
I do not love...
Then he'd leave our wooden shack
and walk eighty meters to
our stone house, there, at the edge of the plain...

Say hello to our house, stranger
Our coffee cups
are still as they were. Can you smell
our fingers on them? Will you tell your daughter with
her long hair and two thick eyebrows that she has
an absent friend
who would like to visit her? For nothing...
but to enter her mirror and see his secret:
How she follows, after him, the course of his life
in his place? Say hello to her
if time allows...

These words that we'd wished
to say, he hears them,
hears them well
but hides them in a quick cough
and tosses them aside. The buttons
of his uniform sparkle as he draws away...

Mahmoud Darwish

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