Nov 25 – “If only I were a candle in the dark”

Wednesday, November 25 —  the  U.S. Thanksgiving Day break

Each year on this day our campus eases toward stillness.   Students have headed out to where they will gather for the most peace-oriented of the U.S. national holidays.  The non-academic side of campus heads in the same direction later this afternoon.  The university’s new main entrance inches closer to its finished state, exciting lots of university on-lookers.  Some in our community carry sharp griefs, news of illnesses taking threatening turns, gatherings to cherish people who have died very recently, some like Justin Schaffer, a volunteer in the city of Detroit,  or the adult children of Betty Nelson and Victoria Spalone, each too young by far.   All of us hear, cannot avoid hearing, hateful talk and fearful talk.  All of us can listen to voices of sheer beauty that we find ourselves able to speak to one another.

Lots of us pray for the grace of a break from mean spirits during these few days and for the taste of sacred beauty on our tongues.   Strong poetry, a poet friend likes to say, places every word carefully with flint-hard, tender language, opening readers to grief and joy sometimes so close together that they touch.

Best to read the poem out loud.


john sj

Today’s Post:   Mahmoud Darwish wrote the poem about the 1982 Israeli 88 day siege of Beirut

“Think of Others”

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:

فكِّر بغيركَ

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

Mahmoud_Darwish“Think of Others” by Mahmoud Darwish, from Almond Blossoms and Beyond. Translated from the original Arabic by Mohammed Shaheen. © Interlink Books, 2010.


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