Monday November 24 –As you conduct your wars, think of others . . . (do not forget those who seek peace).
I encountered Mahmoud Darwish this morning as I looked for a poet new to me, and perhaps to many of you. I love “Think of Others.” Darwish, a compelling Palestinian poet, died three days after surgery on August 9, 2008. Knowing that the surgery carried a risk of death, he chose August 6, the anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, as a way of making his death a poem of the Palestinian people should he not survive the surgery. The author of the Wikipedia article explains this way.
“Mahmoud Darwish died on 9 August 2008 at the age of 67, three days after heart surgery at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas. Before surgery, Darwish had signed a document asking not to be resuscitated in the event of brain death. According to Ibrahim Muhawi, the poet, though suffering from serious heart problems, did not require urgent surgery, and the day set for the operation bore a symbolic resonance. In his Memory for Forgetfulness, Darwish centered the narrative of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and 88 day siege of Beirut on 6 August 1982, which was the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. A new bomb had been deployed, which could collapse and level a twelve story building by creating a vacuum. Darwish wrote: ‘On this day, on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb, they are trying out the vacuum bomb on our flesh and the experiment is successful.’ By his choice of that day for surgery, Muwahi suggests, Darwish was documenting: ‘the nothingness he saw lying ahead for the Palestinian people.'”
Strong poetry, a poet friend liked to say, chooses every word carefully; the result is flint-hard and tender language, opening the reader to grief and delight, sometimes so close together that they touch. Is “Think of Others” a lamentation or a caress?
Best to read the poem out loud. If you have time the video will deepen your experience.
Have a blest day,
Posted by Phyllis Cole-Dai on Nov 21, 2014 12:00 am
As you prepare your breakfast, think of others
(do not forget the pigeon’s food).
As you conduct your wars, think of others
(do not forget those who seek peace).
As you pay your water bill, think of others
(those who are nursed by clouds).
As you return home, to your home, think of others
(do not forget the people of the camps).
As you sleep and count the stars, think of others
(those who have nowhere to sleep).
As you liberate yourself in metaphor, think of others
(those who have lost the right to speak).
As you think of others far away, think of yourself
(say: “If only I were a candle in the dark”).
The original Arabic:
وأنتَ تُعِدُّ فطورك، فكِّر بغيركَ
لا تَنْسَ قوتَ الحمام
وأنتَ تخوضُ حروبكَ، فكِّر بغيركَ
لا تنس مَنْ يطلبون السلام
وأنتَ تسدد فاتورةَ الماء، فكِّر بغيركَ
مَنْ يرضَعُون الغمامٍ
وأنتَ تعودُ إلى البيت، بيتكَ، فكِّر بغيركَ
لا تنس شعب الخيامْ
وأنت تنام وتُحصي الكواكبَ، فكِّر بغيركَ
ثمّةَ مَنْ لم يجد حيّزاً للمنام
وأنت تحرّر نفسك بالاستعارات، فكِّر بغيركَ
مَنْ فقدوا حقَّهم في الكلام
وأنت تفكر بالآخرين البعيدين، فكِّر بنفسك
قُلْ: ليتني شمعةُ في الظلام
“Think of Others” by Mahmoud Darwish, from Almond Blossoms and Beyond. Translated from the original Arabic by Mohammed Shaheen. © Interlink Books, 2010.
Art credit: Video created by Tamim Fares and uploaded April 4, 2011. Music by Secret Garden. Note that this video uses a slightly different English translation of the poem.