Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian poet of conscience, has died at 67, following heart surgery in Houston. Darwish used the power of his pen to highlight the Palestinian cause. He was harshly critical of infighting by various Palestinian factions, saying their actions lessened the prospects of a Palestinian state.
"He started out as a poet of resistance and then he became a poet of conscience," Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi told the Associated Press. "He embodied the best in Palestinians... even though he became iconic, he never lost his sense of humanity. We have lost part of our essence, the essence of the Palestinian being."
The poet Naomi Shihab Nye said "Darwish is the Essential Breath of the Palestinian people, the eloquent witness of exile and belonging..."
Darwish's prize-winning poetry has been translated into more than 20 languages. Last month in San Francisco I bought his book The Butterfly's Burden, translated from Arabic by Fady Joudah. I found it impossible to choose just one poem for today's post:
"We store our sorrows in our jars, lest
the soldiers see them and celebrate the seige...
We store them for other seasons,
for a memory,
for something that might surprise us on the road.
But when life becomes normal
we'll grieve like others over personal matters
that bigger headlines had kept hidden,
when we didn't notice the hemorrhage of small wounds in us.
Tomorrow when the place heals
we'll feel its side effects."
"On the morning that will follow this siege
a girl will walk to her love
in an ornate shirt and ashen pants,
transparent in spirit like apricots
in March: Today is all ours,
all of it, my love, don't be too late
lest a raven alight on my shoulder...
And she'll bite an apple waiting for hope
waiting for a lover who,
perhaps, might not arrive."