POETRY PORTFOLIO: mahmoud darwish translated by fady joudah

Translator’s Note

Mahmoud Darwish is a “descendant of the kin of loss.” Not because he’s Palestinian, but because he does not believe in a poetry of victory. In a world of mysterious identities, where one is both victim and victimizer, in the presence of absence, Darwish’s art tenderly sings the self and its others. Over four decades of writing, he has carried his art further away from the domain of land (possessed or otherwise) and into a poetry of exile: from place to non-place.

—Fady Joudah

Mahmoud Darwish, trans. Fady Joudah

The horse fell off the poem
and the Galilean women were wet
with butterflies and dew,
dancing above the chrysanthemum

The two absent ones: you and I
you and I are the two absent ones

A pair of white doves
chatting on the branches of a holm oak

No love, but I love ancient
love poems that guard
the sick moon from smoke

Attack and retreat, like the violin in quatrains
I get far from my time when I am near
the topography of place . . .

There is no margin in modern language left
to celebrate what we love,
because all that will be . . . was

The horse fell bloodied
with my poem
and I feel bloodied
with the horse’s blood . . .

Mahmoud Darwish, trans. Fady Joudah

Nothing but light,
I only stopped my horse
to pick a red rose from
the garden of a Canaanite who had seduced my horse
and fortified herself in the light:
Don’t come in and don’t get out . . . .
So I didn’t go in, and I didn’t get out.
Then she said: Do you see me?
I whispered: I need, to be certain, a difference
between the traveler and the road, and a difference
between the singer and the song . . .
Jericho sat, like a letter of the alphabet, within her name
and I tumbled in mine
at the crossroads of meaning . . .
I am what I become tomorrow
and I only stopped my horse
to pick a red rose from
the garden of a Canaanite who had seduced my horse
before I went searching for my place
higher and farther,
then higher and farther,
than my time . . .


Mahmoud Darwish (1941–2008) was a Palestinian poet and writer. He won numerous awards and was regarded as the Palestinian national poet.