"I resemble what no longer resembles me."

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Issue 13: Free Form

Issue 12: The Necessary Ear

Issue 11: The Necessary Eye

Issue 10: Out on a Limb

Issue 9: The Missing Body

Issue 8: The Lily

Issue 7: Passages

Issue 6: No More Tears

Mahmoud Darwish
translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah


A pine tree in your right hand. A willow in your left. This

is summer: one of your hundred gazelles has surrendered to the dew

and slept on my shoulder, near one of your regions, and so what

if the wolf notices, and a forest burns in the distance.

Your sleepiness is stronger than fear. A wilderness of your beauty

dozes off, and a moon out of your shadows wakes to guard its trees.

What's the name of the place your footsteps tattooed on the ground,

a heavenly ground for the salaam of the birds, near echo?

And stronger than the sword is your sleep between your streamlined arms.

Like two rivers in the dreamer's paradise of what you do on the banks

to yourself carried above yourself. The wolf might carry a flute

and cry by the river: what isn't feminized . . . is in vain.

A bit of weakness in metaphor is enough for tomorrow.

For the berries to ripen on the fence, and for the sword to break under dew


Two Stranger Birds in Our Feathers

My sky is ashen. Scratch my back. And undo

slowly, you stranger, my braids. And tell me

what's on your mind. Tell me what crossed

Youssef's mind. Tell me some simple

talk . . . talk a woman always desires

to be told. I don't want the phrase

complete. Gesture is enough to scatter me in the rise

of butterflies between springheads and the sun. Tell me

I am necessary for you like sleep, and not like nature

filling up with water around you and me. And spread

over me an endless blue wing . . .

My sky is ashen,

as a blackboard is ashen, before

writing on it. So write with my blood's ink anything

that changes it: an utterance . . . two, without

excessive aim at metaphor. And say we are

two stranger birds in Egypt

and in Syria. Say we are two stranger birds

in our feathers. And write my name and yours

beneath the phrase. What time is it now? What color

is my face and yours in new mirrors?

I own nothing for anything to resemble me.

Did the water mistress love you more? Did she seduce you

by the sea rock? Confess now

that you have extended your wilderness twenty years

to stay prisoner in her hands. And tell me

what you think of when the sky is ashen . . .

My sky is ashen.

I resemble what no longer resembles me.

Do you want to return to your exile night

in a mermaid's hair? Or do you want to return

to your home figs? For no honey wounds a stranger

here or there? So what time is it now?

What's the name of this place we're in? And

what's the difference between my sky and your land. Tell me

what Adam said in secret to himself. Was he emancipated

when he remembered. Tell me anything that changes the sky's

ashen color. Tell me some simple

talk, talk a woman desires

to be told every now and then. Say

that two people, like you and me,

can carry all this resemblance between fog

and mirage, then safely return. My sky

is ashen, so what do you think of when the sky

is ashen?




Fady Joudah is a physician member of Doctors Without Borders. His poetry has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, and is the recipient of River City's 2004 prize. The Butterfly's Burden, his translations of Mahmoud Darwish's most recent collections of poetry, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2006.