20+ Best Mahmoud Darwish Poems You Must Read

Mahmoud Darwish was a Palestinian poet and author who was regarded as the Palestinian national poet. He won numerous awards for his works.

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Famous Mahmoud Darwish Poems

Defiance

Tighten my fetters.
Confiscate my papers
and cigarettes.
Fill my mouth with dust.
Poetry is blood in the heart,
salt in bread,
moisture in eyes.
It is written with fingernails,
with eyes,
with daggers.
I shall proclaim in my detention cell,
in the bathroom,
in the stable,
under the lash,
manacled,
in the violence of chains,
that a million birds
on the branches of my heart,
are singing fighting songs.

Sonnet V

I touch you as a lonely violin touches the suburbs of the faraway place
patiently the river asks for its share of the drizzle
and, bit by bit, a tomorrow passing in poems approaches
so I carry faraway’s land and it carries me on travel’s road
On a mare made of your virtues, my soul weaves
a natural sky made of your shadows, one chrysalis at a time.
I am the son of what you do in the earth, son of my wounds
that have lit up the pomegranate blossoms in your closed-up gardens
Out of jasmine the night’s blood streams white. Your perfume,
my weakness and your secret, follows me like a snakebite. And your hair
is a tent of wind autumn in color. I walk along with speech
to the last of the words a bedouin told a pair of doves
I palpate you as a violin palpates the silk of the faraway time
and around me and you sprouts the grass of an ancient place—anew

Translated By: Fady Joudah

The Owl’s Night

Here is a present that yesterday doesn’t touch…
When we reached
the last of the trees we noticed that we
were no longer able to notice. When
we looked at the trucks. We saw absence
heaping up its selected things and pitching
its eternal tent around us…
Here is a present
that yesterday doesn’t touch
Silk thread slips between the mulberrry trees
letters on the nights’s notebook. Only
butterflies light our boldness
descending to the hollow of strange words:
Was this difficult man my father?
Perhaps I’ll look after myself here. Perhaps
I’ll give birth, now, to myself, with myself
and choose for my name vertical letters…
Here is a present
sitting in time’s emptiness, staring
at the trace of those who pas on the river’s reeds
polishing their flutes with wind…Perhpas speech
will become transparent, so we’ll see windows in it, open
Perhaps time will hurry, with us
carrying our tomorrow in its luggage…
Here is a present
without time
No one here found anyone who remembered
how we left the door, a gust of wind. Or anyone who remembered
when we fell off yesterday. Yesterday
shattered ove rth floor, shrapnel gathered together
by others, like mirrors for the image, after us…
Here is a present
without place
Perhaps I’ll look after myself and scream at
the owl’s night: Was that difficult man
my father, who would have me carry the burden of his history?
Perhpas I’ll transform within my name and choose
my mother’s words and habits as it should
be: She’ll be able to joke with me
whenever salt touches my blood. She’ll be able
to comfort me whenever a nightingale bites my mouth!
Here is a present
fleeting
Here strangers hung their guns on
the branches of an olive tree, prepared dinner
quickly from tin cans, and left
quickly for their trucks…

Translated by Jeffrey Sacks

Remainder Of A Life

If I were told:
By evening you will die,
so what will you do until then?
I would look at my wristwatch,
I’d drink a glass of juice,
bite an apple,
contemplate at length an ant that has found its food,
then look at my wristwatch.
There’d be time left to shave my beard
and dive in a bath, obsess:
“There must be an adornment for writing,
so let it be a blue garment.”
I’d sit until noon alive at my desk
but wouldn’t see the trace of color in the words,
white, white, white . . .
I’d prepare my last lunch,
pour wine in two glasses: one for me
and one for the one who will come without appointment,
then I’d take a nap between two dreams.
But my snoring would wake me . . .
so I’d look at my wristwatch:
and there’d be time left for reading.
I’d read a chapter in Dante and half of a mu’allaqah
and see how my life goes from me
to the others, but I wouldn’t ask who
would fill what’s missing in it.
That’s it, then?
That’s it, that’s it.
Then what?
Then I’d comb my hair and throw away the poem . . .
this poem, in the trash,
and put on the latest fashion in Italian shirts,
parade myself in an entourage of Spanish violins,
and walk to the grave!

Earth Presses Against Us

Earth is pressing against us, trapping us in the final passage.
To pass through, we pull off our limbs.
Earth is squeezing us. If only we were its wheat, we might die and yet live.
If only it were our mother so that she might temper us with mercy.
If only we were pictures of rocks held in our dreams like mirrors.
We glimpse faces in their final battle for the soul, of those who will be killed
by the last living among us. We mourn their children’s feast.
We saw the faces of those who would throw our children out of the windows.
of this last space. A star to burnish our mirrors.
Where should we go after the last border? Where should birds fly after the last sky?
Where should plants sleep after the last breath of air?
We write our names with crimson mist!
We end the hymn with our flesh.
Here we will die. Here, in the final passage.
Here or there, our blood will plant olive trees.

translated by Munir Akash and Carolyn Forche

Another Day Will Come

Another day will come, a womanly day
diaphanous in metaphor, complete in being,
diamond and processional in visitation, sunny,
flexible, with a light shadow. No one will feel
a desire for suicide or for leaving. All
things, outside the past, natural and real,
will be synonyms of their early traits. As if time
is slumbering on vacation… “Extend your lovely
beauty-time. Sunbathe in the sun of your silken breasts,
and wait until good omen arrives. Later
we will grow older. We have enough time
to grow older after this day…”/
Another day will come, a womanly day
songlike in gesture, lapis in greeting
and in phrase. All things will be feminine outside
the past. Water will flow from rock’s bosom.
No dust, no drought, no defeat.
And a dove will sleep in the afternoon in an abandoned
combat tank if it doesn’t find a small nest
in the lovers’ bed…

To My End And To Its End…

-Are you tired of walking
my son, are you getting tired?
-Yes, father
Your night has grown long on the road
and your heart has flowed over your night’s earth
-You’re still as lithe as a cat
so climb up on my shoulders
In a little while we’ll cross
the forest of terebinth and oak
This is the northern Galilee
Lebanon is behind us
The sky is ours, all of it, from Damascus
to the beautiful wall fo Acre
-And then what?
-We’ll return to the house
Do you know the way, my son?
-Yes, father:
East of the carob tree on the main street there’s
a small path crowded by cactus
at its opening. Then it leads, wider and wider,
to the well where it looks out
on the orchard of my uncle Jamil
who sells tobacco and sweets
Then it gets lost on a treshing floor before
it straightens out and settles in at home
in the shape of a parrot
-Do you know the house, my son?
-I know it like I know the path:
Jasmine winds around an iron gate
Footprints of light on the stone stairs
Sunflowers stare at what lies behind the place
Friendly bees prepare breakfast for my grandfather
on a reed tray
In the yard there’s a well and a willow tree and a horse
Behind the fence, a tomorrow, thumbing through our papers…
-Oh father, are you getting tired?
Do I see sweat in your eyes?
-My son, I am tired… Can you carry me?
-Like you used to carry me, father
I’ll carry this longing
for
my beginning
and its beginning
I’ll follow this road to
my end… and to its end!

Translated by Jeffrey Sacks

I Didn’T Apologize To The Well…

I didn’t apologize to the well as I passed by it.
I borrowed a cloud from an ancient pine and squeezed it
like an orange. I waited for a mythical white deer.
I instructed my heart in patience: Be neutral, as though
you were not a part of me. Here, good shepherds
stood on air and invented the flute and enticed
mountain partridges into their traps. Here, I saddled
a horse for flight to my personal planets, and flew.
And here, a fortuneteller told me: Beware of asphalt roads
and automobiles, ride on your sigh. Here, I loosened
my shadow and waited. I selected the smallest stone
and stood wakefully by it. I broke apart a myth
and got broken myself. I circled the well until
I flew out of myself to what I’m not. And a voice
from deep in the well spoke to me: This grave
is not yours. And so I apologized. I read verses
from the wise Qur’an and said to the anonymous presence
in the well: Peace be with you and the day
you were killed in the land of peace and with the day
you’ll rise from the well’s darkness
and live…

Your Night Is Of Lilac

The night sits wherever you are. Your night
is of lilac. Every now and then a gesture escapes
from the beam of your dimples, breaks the wineglass
and lights up the starlight. And your night is your shadow—
a fairy-tale piece of land to make our dreams
equal. I am not a traveler or a dweller
in your lilac night, I am he who was one day
me. Whenever night grew in you I guessed
the heart’s rank between two grades: neither
the self accepts, nor the soul accepts. But in our bodies
a heaven and an earth embrace. And all of you
is your night … radiant night like planet ink. Night
is the covenant of night, crawling in my body
anesthetized like a fox’s sleepiness. Night diffusing a mystery
that illuminates my language, whenever it is clearer
I become more fearful of a tomorrow in the fist. Night
staring at itself safe and assured in its
endlessness, nothing celebrates it except its mirror
and the ancient shepherd songs in a summer of emperors
who get sick on love. Night that flourished in its Jahili poetry
on the whims of Imru’ el-Qyss and others,
and widened for the dreamers the milk path to a hungry
moon in the remoteness of speech …

The Cypress Broke

The cypress broke like a minaret, and slept on
the road upon its chapped shadow, dark, green,
as it has always been. No one got hurt. The vehicles
sped over its branches. The dust blew
into the windshields … / The cypress broke, but
the pigeon in a neighboring house didn’t change
its public nest. And two migrant birds hovered above
the hem of the place, and exchanged some symbols.
And a woman said to her neighbor: Say, did you see a storm?
She said: No, and no bulldozer either … / And the cypress
broke. And those passing by the wreckage said:
Maybe it got bored with being neglected, or it grew old
with the days, it is long like a giraffe, and little
in meaning like a dust broom, and couldn’t shade two lovers.
And a boy said: I used to draw it perfectly,
its figure was easy to draw. And a girl said: The sky today
is incomplete because the cypress broke.
And a young man said: But the sky today is complete
because the cypress broke. And I said
to myself: Neither mystery nor clarity,
the cypress broke, and that is all
there is to it: the cypress broke!

Psalm One

To love you or not to love you-
I go away, leaving behind me
addresses susceptible to loss and wait
for those who will return; they know
the visiting hours of my death, so they come.
You are the one I don’t love
when I love you. The walls of Babylon
shrink in the day; your eyes enlarge;
and your face incandesces in the glare.
One would think you were not born yet; we had not been separated before; you had not felled me.
On the terraces of the storm every word is beautiful; every meeting
a farewell.
Nothing between us except this encounter; nothing
except this farewell.
To love you, or not to love you-
My forehead flees from me; I sense that you are
nothing or everything; that you are susceptible to loss.
To want you, or not to want you-
The murmer of streams sears in my blood. The day I see you
I go away.
I tried to recover the friendship of lost things-
Done!
I tried to boast of eyes capable of containing every fall-
Tried to carve around your waste a name suitable for an olive
but it begot a star.
I want you when I say I don’t want you.
My face falls.
A distant river dissolves my body. And in the marketplace
they sell my blood like canned soup.
I want you when I say I want you-
Woman who has placed the shores of the Mediterranean
in her lap, the gardens of Asia
on her shoulders, and all the chains
in her heart.
To want you, or not to want you-
The murmer of streams, the rustle of pines, the surge
of oceans, and the feathers of nightingales all
sear in my blood.
The day I see you, I go away.

To sing you, or not to sing you-
I hush. I cry. There is no special time for crying
or hushing. You are my sole crying.
You are my single silence.
My skin constricts around my throat; under my window
the wind marches in uniform; darkness
waxes without warning.
When the soldiers abandon the palms of my hands
I will write something.
When the soldiers desert my feet
I will walk a little.
When the soldiers relinquish my vision
I will see you and discover myself again.
To sing you, or not to sing you
You are the sole song; you sing me if I hush.
You are the only silence.

They Would Love To See Me Dead

They would love to see me dead, so they say: He belongs to us, he is ours.
For twenty years I have heard their footsteps on the walls of the night.
They open no door, yet here they are now. I see three of them:
A poet, a killer, and a reader of books.
Will you have some wine? I asked.
Yes, they answered.
When do you plan to shoot me? I asked.
Take it easy, they answered.
They lined up their glasses all in a row and started singing for the people.
I asked: When will you begin my assassination?
Already done, they said … Why did you send your shoes on ahead to your soul?
So it can wander the face of the earth, I said.
The earth is wickedly dark, so why is your poem so white?
Because my heart is teeming with thirty seas, I answered.
They asked: Why do you love French wine?
Because I ought to love the most beautiful women, I answered.
They asked: How would you like your death?
Blue, like stars pouring from a window—would you like more wine?
Yes, we’ll drink, they said.
Please take your time. I want you to kill me slowly so I can write my last
poem to my heart’s wife. They laughed, and took from me
only the words dedicated to my heart’s wife.

Translated by Munir Akash and Caroline Forché

I Have The Wisdom Of One Condemned…

I have the wisdom of one condemned to die,
I possess nothing so nothing can possess me
and have written my will in my own blood:
‘O inhabitants of my song: trust in water’
and I sleep pierced and crowned by my tomorrow…
I dreamed the earth’s heart is greater
than its map,
more clear than its mirrors
and my gallows.
I was lost in a white cloud that carried me up high
as if I were a hoopoe
and the wind itself my wings.
At dawn, the call of the night guard
woke me from my dream, from my language:
You will live another death,
so revise your last will,
the hour of execution is postponed again.
I asked: Until when?
He said: Wait till you have died some more.
I said: I possess nothing so nothing can possess me
and have written my will in my own blood:
‘O inhabitants of my song: trust in water.’

A Noun Sentence

A noun sentence, no verb
to it or in it: to the sea the scent of the bed
after making love … a salty perfume
or a sour one. A noun sentence: my wounded joy
like the sunset at your strange windows.
My flower green like the phoenix. My heart exceeding
my need, hesitant between two doors:
entry a joke, and exit
a labyrinth. Where is my shadow—my guide amid
the crowdedness on the road to judgment day? And I
as an ancient stone of two dark colors in the city wall,
chestnut and black, a protruding insensitivity
toward my visitors and the interpretation of shadows. Wishing
for the present tense a foothold for walking behind me
or ahead of me, barefoot. Where
is my second road to the staircase of expanse? Where
is futility? Where is the road to the road?
And where are we, the marching on the footpath of the present
tense, where are we? Our talk a predicate
and a subject before the sea, and the elusive foam
of speech the dots on the letters,
wishing for the present tense a foothold
on the pavement …

Slain And Unknown…

Slain and unknown. Neither gathered up by forgetfulness
nor dispersed by memory…they’re forgotten
in winter grass on the road that runs between
two long tales, one of heroics, the other of suffering.
‘I’m the victim here.’
‘No, only I am the victim.’
No one says to a poet: ‘One victim doesn’t kill another.
In the story there’s a killer and a victim.’
Once they were young, shaking snow from
the sacred cypress of Christ and playing
with small angels –
sons who were of the same generation… slipping away from school to escape mathematics
and the old hamasa poetry to play an innocent game
of death with soldiers on the barricades.
And they didn’t say to the soldiers:
‘Put away your guns and open the road so a butterfly
might find its mother near morning, so we might
fly with the butterfly out of our dreams, for dreams
are narrow at our door.’
They were young and at play, making up stories
to tell a red rose still under snow, behind two long tales,
of heroics and suffering, and escaping with small angels
to a clear sky…

And They Don’T Ask…

And they don’t ask: What comes after death?
Though more intimate with the book of Paradise
than with accounts of the earth, they’re preoccupied
with another question: What shall we do
before this death? Near to life, we live
and we don’t – as if life were parceled out
from a desert where the haggling gods of property
settle their disputes.
We live beside an ancient dust.
Our lives burden the historian’s night:
‘Though I make them disappear, they come back to me
from absence.’
Our lives burden the artist:
‘I draw them and become one of them, veiled in mist.’
Our lives burden the General:
‘How can a ghost still bleed?’
We shall be what we want to be. And we want
a bit of life, not for just anything – but to honor
the resurrection after our death.
Unintentionally, they speak the philosopher’s words:
‘Death means nothing to us: if we are then he isn’t.
Death means nothing to us: if he is then we are not.’
And they have rearranged their dreams
and sleep standing.

The Horse Fell Off The Poem

and the Galilean women were wet
with butterflies and dew,
dancing above 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

I 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 fell bloodied
with the horse’s blood…

A Song And The Sultan

It was no more than the description of a burst of rain
and handkerchiefs of lightning which burned the secret of trees—
then why did they resist her?
When she said that something different from this water
runs in the river
and the people of the shore are statues and other things,
why did they torture her?
When she told them the forest was abounding with secrets
and the moon was stabbed with a carving knife
and the blood of the nightingale was on that stone, abandoned,
why did they resist her?
Why did they torture her?
When she said, my country is a mountain of sweat
and on the small bridge a man is dying
and darkness burning
the Sultan was angry
and the Sultan is an imaginative creature.
He said, ‘The fault is in the mirror
so let your singer be silent
and let my kingdom from the Nile to the Euphrates be.’
and he shouted, ‘Put that poem in prison! ‘
The torture room, for security,
is a thousand times better than an anthem or a newspaper.
Go and tell the Sultan
that the wind cannot be wounded by the shake of a sword
that millions of trees can become green
in the cupped hand of a single letter.
But the Sultan was angry, and the Sultan is everywhere
on stamps, in psalms,
and on his forehead is the tattoo of hunting.
He shouted, ‘It is ordered!
Execute this poem! ‘
Execution Square is the best anthology for obstinate sons.
Go and tell the Sultan
that lightning cannot be imprisoned in a corncob
that songs are the logic of the sun
and the history of sheaves
and the nature of earthquakes.
That songs like tree trunks may die in one land
but sprout in every country
The blue sun was an idea
the Sultan tried to submerge
but it became the birthday of an ember
and the red sun has become an ember
which the Sultan in vain imprisoned
and suddenly the fire
is a revolution!
The voices of blood
have taken the tone of a tempest
and the pebbles of the Square are becoming
like open wounds
and I laugh, awed by the birth of the wind.
When the Sultan resisted me
I grasped the key of the morning
and groped my way with the lamps of wounds.
Oh how wise I was when I gave my heart
to the call of the tempest!
Let the tempest roar,
O let the tempest roar…!

Psalm Four

I left my face on my mother’s kerchief
Hauled mountains in my memory
And went away.
The city destroyed its gates
And stacked them on the decks of ships
The way greenness is stacked in the receding fields.
I lean on the wind
Unbreakable stature!
Why do I vacillate
when you are my rock?
The distance slaps me
The way fresh death slaps the faces of lovers
And the closer I get to the psalms
The weaker I grow.
Corridors clogged with emptiness!
When do I arrive?…
Blessed is he who is wrapped in his own skin!
Blessed is he who utters his true name without a mistake!
Blessed is he who eats an apple
and does not become a tree.
Who drinks from the water of distant rivers
and does not become a cloud!
Blessed is the rock that worships its bondage
and does not covet the wind’s freedom!

I Remember Elsayyab…

I remember Elsayyab, screaming uselessly in the Gulf:
‘Iraq, Iraq, there’s only Iraq…’
Only an echo answered.
I remember Elsayyab, in the Sumerian vastness
the feminine overcame the infertility of mist
and bequeathed earth and exile together.
I remember Elsayyab, poetry is born in Iraq,
so be an Iraqi, my friend, if you want
to be a poet.
I remember Elsayyab, he didn’t find life
as he imagined it between the Tigris and
the Euphrates, didn’t contemplate the plant of immortality
like Gilgamesh, didn’t think of resurrection…
I remember Elsayyab, taking laws from Hammurabi
to redeem a wrongful act and walking like a mystic
to his grave.
I remember Elsayyab, touched by fever
and hallucinating: ‘My brothers prepared supper
for Hulagu’s army, there were only my brothers
for servants…’
I remember Elsayyab, we didn’t dream of nourishment
too good for a bee, didn’t dream of more than two small hands
to shake our absence.
I remember Elsayyab, dead blacksmiths rose up from their graves
to make our chains.
I remember Elsayyab, poetry is an experiment
and an exile – twins –
we didn’t dream of life other than it is, dreamed only
of dying our own way.
‘Iraq, Iraq, there is only Iraq…’

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