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Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Darwish: Rita and the Rifle

File:Сотовый мёд.jpg

Between Rita and my eyes
There is a rifle
And whoever knows Rita
Kneels and prays
To the divinity in those honey-colored eyes
And I kissed Rita
When she was young
And I remember how she approached
And how my arm covered the loveliest of braids
And I remember Rita
The way a sparrow remembers its stream
Ah, Rita
Between us there are a million sparrows and images
And many a rendezvous
Fired at by a rifle

Rita's name was a feast in my mouth
Rita's body was a wedding in my blood
And I was lost in Rita for two years
And for two years she slept on my arm
And we made promises
Over the most beautiful of cups
And we burned in the wine of our lips
And we were born again

Ah, Rita!
What before this rifle could have turned my eyes from yours
Except a nap or two or honey-colored clouds?
Once upon a time
Oh, the silence of dusk
In the morning my moon migrated to a far place
Towards those honey-colored eyes
And the city swept away all the singers
And Rita

Between Rita and my eyes—
A rifle

File:Family That Bathes Together.jpg

A bombed-out house in Gaza


Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008): Rita and the Rifle (translation unattributed)

Honey in honeycomb: photo by George Shuklin, 2009

Sparrows (Passer domesticus) bathing in a stream: photo by Kim, 2005

After an Israeli air strike in Rafah, southern Gaza, January 2009: photo by Said Khatib/AFP, 2009 via The Guardian

Earthrise, from Apollo 8, 22 December 1968: photo by Manned Spacecraft Center (NASA)


Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Beautiful and devastating all at once ...

"The way a sparrow remembers a stream ..."

TC said...



I think you would appreciate the tremendous performance of the poem by the great Marcel Khalifa to be found here.

(And another poem by Mahmoud Darwish is here.)

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thanks for the links. Amazing performance ... and if anything can be better than the music, it is when so many people in the audience join in, knowing each and every word. The singing brings another dimension to the poem and the unabashed love from the audience is beyond dimension.

Also, absolutely loved "I'm From There."

to return the sky
its mother,

Oh, yes.

TC said...


This earlier performance has more traditional instrumentation. Here the audience participation is in fact a part of the performance. Also very, very eloquent and moving.

(Biographical readings can be limiting with any poem and particularly so with poetry of this level of connotative resonance. But it's been pointed out and is perhaps useful to know that the "original" of Rita was an Israeli girl Darwish fell in love with in Haifa in the 1960s, when in his early twenties.)

Cj said...

I don't know who Rita is, but she's not a cat!

Any cat poems please? (Haven't seen any for a long long long time!)

Elmo St. Rose said...

beautiful love poem amidst war

heard Ken Rexroth read many years
ago about the slaughter of sea lions mating on an island off Alaska

the punch line which I heard when young
and have retained
"if you want to make love,control
your environment"

there is no reason why the Middle
East is not a paradise

last I checked the vocal in that
region still claim "the sword" as
an important part of their religion



Thanks for these links -- further 'notes' on Darwish, bringing yet another world into presence here --


first grey light in sky above blackness
of ridge, silver of planet above branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

“different” color of subject,
preserved “composition”

something unconcealed, which
it is, come to presence

cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
whiteness of tern circling toward point



Something here as 'echo' of "Earthrise from Apollo 8 (hope things are good over there. . . .) --

hey, saw that first edge of sun rising again (almost an hour ago), crows and quails and hawks and sparrows calling. . . .
what a day of swimming yesterday, we didn’t get home until after 7 (w/ detour through San Rafael after leaving pool, then returning to pool for another swim before heading back — not surprising he’s still sound asleep. everything seems to fit (placewise) in this one ---


first silver edge of sun above shadowed

plane of ridge, motion of sunlit leaves

in foreground, sound of wave in channel

presence of objects, project

appearance of landscape

in motion of elements, first

this happened, abstract

cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,

white wingspan of osprey across from it

Sandra.if said...

maravilloso Darwish...maravilloso! me encantó!

TC said...

CJ, Rita might be a cat.

Stay tuned for a surefire kitty tomorrow. It may be hidden, so I hope you like cat puzzles.

(Yesterday was a bit sticky, medical/pharmaceutical/infernal bureaucratic healthcare businesses, all very bad for kitty stuff -- don't think your request was not on my mind however.)

Elmo, the vocal in any region may be the loudest and even the bloodiest, but there are also the serious, quiet ones. They're the ones I would always prefer to listen to, in or from any region.

As for swords, I dunno, the guys who own that part of the world have a pretty big arsenal, and they make all the rules, so to them a Bic razor maybe sometimes comes out looking like a sword, and then out roll the the choppers and the tanks. Takes two to make a paradise.

Steve, that latest entry is pristine as a freshly oxygenated aquatic bubble.

And so cometh the day, I think. (On no sleep it is not always easy to tell, until, that is, your morning poem arrives.)

TC said...

Sandra, Lo sentimos, Blogger es lento aquí. (Pero yo soy lento también por lo que no puede quejarse).

Darwish es un fenómeno raro, un gran poeta cuyos poemas son canciones y cuyas canciones tal vez nos dicen más sobre la historia de los libros de historia.

Más, puede ser, de lo que todavía puede entender ...

human being said...

Rita was rain
and the rifle
an umbrella

Sohrab Sepehri says,

چتر ها را باید بست،
زیر باران باید رفت.
فکر را،خاطره را،زیر باران باید برد.
با همه مردم شهر،زیر باران باید رفت.
دوست را زیر باران باید دید.
عشق را،زیر باران باید جست.
زیر باران باید با زن خوابید.
زیر باران باید بازی کرد.
زیر باران باید چیز نوشت،حرف زد،نیلوفر کاشت.

we should close the umbrellas
we should go under the rain
we should take the thoughts, the memories into the rain
with all the people of the city
we should go under the rain
we should meet the friend under the rain
we should look for love under the rain
we should sleep with the woman under the rain
we should play games under the rain
under the rain
we should write...
and plant lotus...

TC said...