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Friday, 15 April 2011

Access and Closure: Mahmoud Darwish: O those who pass between fleeting words


An olive tree, Bi'lin, West Bank: photo by elena martinez, 12 June 2009

Settlements outside of Nablus

A settlement, seen through separation fence: photo by T, from Nablus: Palestine, The Occupation, 7 July 2009

O those who pass between fleeting words

Carry your names, and be gone
Rid our time of your hours, and be gone

Steal what you will from the blueness of the sea
And the sand of memory

Take what pictures you will, so that you understand

That which you never will:

How a stone from our land builds the ceiling of our sky.

O those who pass between fleeting words

From you the sword -- from us the blood

From you steel and fire -- from us our flesh

From you yet another tank -- from us stones

From you tear gas -- from us rain

Above us, as above you, are sky and air

So take your share of our blood -- and be gone
Go to a dancing party -- and be gone

As for us, we have to water the martyrs' flowers
As for us, we have to live as we see fit.

O those who pass between fleeting words
As better dust, go where you wish, but
Do not pass between us like flying insects

For we have work to do in our land:
We have wheat to grow which we water with our bodies' dew

We have that which does not please you here:
Stones or partridges

So take the past, if you wish, to the antiquities market
And return the skeleton to the hoopoe, if you wish,
On a clay platter

We have that which does not please you: we have the future
And we have things to do in our land.

O those who pass between fleeting words
Pile your illusions in a deserted pit, and be gone

Return the hand of time to the law of the golden calf

Or to the time of the revolver's music!

For we have that which does not please you here, so be gone
And we have what you lack: a bleeding homeland of a bleeding people
A homeland fit for oblivion or memory.

O those who pass between fleeting words

It is time for you to be gone
Live wherever you like, but do not live among us
It is time for you to be gone
Die wherever you like, but do not die among us

For we have work to do in our land.

We have the past here

We have the first cry of life

We have the present, the present and the future
We have this world here, and the hereafter

So leave our country

Our land, our sea
Our wheat, our salt, our wounds

Everything, and leave

The memories of memory
O those who pass between fleeting words!

Mahmoud Darwish (13 March 1941-9 August 2008): O those who pass between fleeting words, 1988: translator unknown

One-metre-square cement roadblocks used to restrict Palestinian vehicle access access at one of the entrances to Beit Ummar village, near Hebron, West Bank; one of 50 such block sites used to obstruct Palestinian vehicle access to settlements and to prevent bypassing of checkpoints when entering controlled access routes: photo by Harry Pockets, 6 July 2006

Beit Ummar, West Bank, Palestine: photo by Palobserver, 2 April 2011

Barrier gate at Bi'lin, near Ramallah, West Bank: the gate is the only means of entry for the villagers who have been separated from their families by the Israeli West Bank barrier; one of 25 such fences, totalling 37,600 metres, built to impede Palestinians from traveling over major roads to the main cities: photo by Harry Pockets, 6 July 2006

Bi'lin Separation Wall, near Ramallah, West Bank; the wall separates the village of Bi'lin from sixty percent of its farmland: photo by elena martinez, 12 June 2009

A settlement, seen through barrier fence near village of Bi'lin, West Bank
: photo by elena martinez, 12 June 2009

Protestors fleeing IDF tear gas attack during demonstration against security barrier in Bi'lin, West Bank: photo by socksasgloves, 2005

View from Nablus side of Huwwara checkpoint, with people waiting to travel south; one of nine permanent checkpoints in the Nablus region, West Bank, used by the IDF to control pedestrian and vehicle access: photo by Harry Pockets, 10 August 2006


TC said...

Also by this poet:

Darwish: I'm from There

Darwish: Rita and the Rifle

And please see:

West Bank: Access and Closure: map by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, June 2009


a poem of dizzying beauty even aside from the politics. the occupation of palestine is the mountaintop removal of international relations. thanks tom for showing us this

TC said...

Thanks Vincent for getting the point of the segue. There is no better relief for that lonely feeling than to know you're not alone in it.

The prize in the crackerjack box will probably be more and worse of the same, but still. Just saying.

kent said...

Waking to results
late start vs A's
JR-42 night,

Nearby sage TC reminds
not even sober'd Miggy
can clear those fences.

Simon M Hunter said...

Thanks for this one, Tom. It has strengthened my determination to learn enough Arabic to read the original.

TC said...


I wanted to post the original in Arabic, but some treasures defy searches.

There are a number of immensely moving videos of Darwish songs being performed; here are two performances by the great Marcel Khalifa.

Both reflect something of the meaning of Darwish and his work to the Palestinian people, and to us as well.

An English version of the text of this first one appeared here earlier -- see link above.

Marcel Khalifa: Rita and the Rifle by Mahmoud Darwish

This second is a posthumous tribute.

Marcel Khalifa pays homage to Mahmoud Darwish

TC said...


To descend from the sublime...

I understand MC now has a minder. Still large, but not drunk and went yard late off Fuentes. (The heavy night air of the dead zone just a tad lighter than usual for this time of year.)

(In the same breath with Darwish, the paratax of infidels.)

kent said...


Top of nine
Like Leo before him
O-Bam’ sends up
A bomb of his own

Mighty Miggy
All-Fury Like Jack’s
Twin-Star Newk
Clears the fences

In all senses
Sends the razors
To Sal Maglie’s
Place in Heaven

Where only he
And God
Know how
To use them.

Elmo St. Rose said...

Tony Blair has sought to bridge
the divide.

He points out that the holy sites
of 3 major religions exist in a
small geographical area,some in
the West Bank and Gaza...

With peace and modern attitudes
of reasonable tolerance the wealth
from the tourism could be spread
around...Gaza after all could be
a Riviera

the GNP of the non natural resource
Israeli economy could spread to
the Arab nations.

The fight is over a sliver of the
globe...Darwish's poetry does not
account for some of the imam driven
nightmares that are planned for a
large portion of the earth's wit, who, who is not
Muslim is safe in a Muslim land

The old phrase...just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you

TC said...


I don't think they're out to get me, in fact I think they have issues of their own.

I have a friend whose father (whom I have met) attended Darwish's funeral, the event pictured in that second Marcel Khalifa link.

My friend's father came to America, started a small food business, earned a life for his family, taught his son the food business, and the son now runs the cleanest, coolest, most welcoming coffee shop in a town that has no dearth of coffee shops.

This is the place.

The family comes from a hill village in the West Bank that is divided down the middle by a separation fence, separating farmers from their fields, family members from each other.

These are peaceful people.

Our distance from these things gives us the luxury of prejudicial judgment. What's the old saw, Distance lends enchantment to the view?

I am sorry to say I have a hard time imagining the utopian possibility of two sides with equal claims to the land getting together amicably to divvy up the tourist revenue.

The claims are not equal, all the rules of the game are being made up on the de facto power-holding side of the fences and walls which they have built and continue to build with the military and political force America has provided them.

This is, I believe, a matter of an oppressive brutal invading power dispossessing another people, stealing their land; and in the end, once justice finally prevails, this Occupation will go down as a dark stain upon history.

Elmo, you are a good man with a kind and generous heart, so I'm sure you must be able to recognize that a small sliver of land can be as big as all God's creation, if it's yours and someone has taken it away from you.

TC said...


Nice one.

Jackie Robinson played baseball, football, life, America, everything, to the hilt -- though of course they're all infinite games in which there are no winners in the end, just the ongoing of the game.

I once saw him challenge the great Sad Sam Jones by dancing so far off third base, Sam had to throw over, and of course Jackie streaked home and scored in a cloud of dust.

This was '55 or so, toward the end of his time, when the great athleticism was largely gone, and the force was largely that of an indomitable will. Which of course had been his great strength from the beginning.

Only a fierce warrior could have overcome the things he overcame, to open the way for the brothers to come.

Darwish would have understood that.

If Darwish and not Bobo Geren had been managing Oakland (phantoms always, the Oakland managers), he would not have thrown out a lefthander to start the ninth against Cabrera; and if he'd have been gambler enough to do so, he'd have shown the hidden nous in the maneuver by walking him.

Bobos never learn, they always fall asleep on their feet before the information is processed.

I saw quite a bit of Sal the Barber in my ushering days at Wrigley, too. The hangdog scowl and the three-day stubble seemed glued on. Once, working behind the visiting dugout, I watched him give a drunk, abusive Cubs fan the dirtiest look I have ever seen one human being give anoter.

Of course he showed that same look to every hitter who stepped in, uncomfortably, against him.

There was nothing so wonderful in those days as seeing a visiting pitcher who is removed from the game look straight in the eyes of a verbal assailant, and return the dislike. That happened quite a bit back then, never now.

The meanest pitcher I believe I ever saw was Early Wynn. When he was pitching for the Indians one sultry summer night at Comiskey, after being rather unkindly roughed up, and yanked, he stalked from the mound in an obviously nasty frame of mind, swearing and growling; when a fan behind the Cleveland dugout mouthed off, Early paused, glanced that way, and gave the guy the finger. Straight up. Occam's Razor.

kent said...


“If Darwish and not Bobo Geren had been managing Oakland…”

Talk about yr paratax. That’s why we come here every day.

TC said...

Also, Darwish would definitely not have allowed himself to prostrate himself before the ridiculous ideology (or idiotology) of a general manager whose one salient contribution to modern baseball is the systematic prevention of swinging at first pitches.

(Wasn't there a sort of pseudo-religious system prevalent on the alternative fringes some time ago that involved delaying climax forever? Happily the senior-dementia vacuum cleaner has hoovered away its name... Kerista, possibly? Through the funky mists of time... Anyway, that would have been the sexual equivalent of Billyball: strike one, called; strike two called, & c. ad infinitum.)

TC said...

What am I saying? Confusing Moneyball, which is, like its name, basically no fun, with Billyball, which was, like the fellow after whom it was named, Berkeley's own Billy Martin, a lot of fun indeed.

(Unless, that is, you were one of those starting pitchers who, in 1981, were left in to complete every game, come hell or high water, and each of whom threw more innings in one season than Don Trump has dollars, nearly -- or, for that matter, than the human arm can safely endure. But then who can speak of recklessness in the context of a manager who ended his career as a human by driving a truck off a cliff, true to the spirit by which he had lived.)

Elmo St. Rose said...

"the country I come from is
called the mid west

the calvary charged and the
Indians fell
the calvary charged and the
Indians died
but the country was young then
and had God on its side"
Bob Dylan

That was a beautiful post on
Kafka where you elucidate some
family history...or immigrant
nature of it fleeing oppression.
And ending up in America.

America "the shining city on the
hill", the Statue of Liberty "The
New Collusus" Emma Lazarus wrote.
Falling short as you so well
describe many times on your blog
but still mankind's last best hope
of government "for the people by
the people of the people" as Lincoln said.

That said I don't think the people
in Chicago, New York or Berkeley
are going to give their land back
to the Indians.

The Blair idea is that the prosperity of liberal democracy
in an environment devoid of daily
and purposeful violence could
effect the abilities of reason
in the area. Poverty can be a
terrible blight to the spirit.

TC said...


I do hear and understand you, my friend.

A nation of nothing but Elmos would be a true liberal democracy indeed, that vision of a shining city on a hill.

As you mention the prior native inhabitants of these lands: coincidentally the brave Angelica lately dragged me in a halting wobble up to one of her favourite local haunts (well, it's probably the only one), Indian Rock, a promontory so-called because the aboriginal inhabitants of this area, the Ohlone people, used the nooks and crannies in its pockmarked surface as grinding-holes to crush acorns down into the mash which then, along with the abundant local fish and game, provided them a generous sustenance.

Of course all that's left of those inhabitants now is the name of the rock.

And once having, with great trepidation, followed my surprisingly robust spouse in scaling up to the top (pride and folly providing what strength and energy could not), I saw the entire broad scape of these cities by the Bay laid out before us -- an ugly spill of grey concrete upon the land, the sky charged with a white toxic haze of pollution (some of it generated by the copious automotive and industrial emanations here, some of it drifting all this way from the power plants of an "emerging" -- ? -- China).

Poverty, inequality, blight and violence flourish under the cover of that general ambient haze.

And the thought struck me, everything that's happened since this piece of earth was stolen from the Indians has been for the worse.

(The one major racetrack visible from that vantage, Golden Gate Fields, is not an Indian reparations casino, at least. Alcohol and Gambling and Diabetes, the troika of benefits afforded the natives by the original Bad Santa... wasn't that all just rubbing it in?)

And before departing the subject of liberal democracies, it would seem at this point a bit optimistic to suggest we still have one, or will still have one tomorrow... once I finally got the patched-together earphones plugged into my tiny Walkman for the evening CBS radio news, I caught the trailing edge of an interview with a Republican congressman, blustering confidently about killing off Medicare... in order to, if I got this right, save the nation -- from, I guess, old unemployed codgers like yours truly who are kept among the living solely by massive daily cocktails of life-support blood pressure medications, partial payment for which already eats up a large chunk of our micro-SS checks as it is; getting rid of Medicare would indeed kill two birds with one stone, the last shred of mercy in the public sector, and the old people.