“Memory doesn’t remember but receives the history raining down on it. Is it in this way that beauty, past beauty come back to life in a song not suited to the context of the hour, becomes tragic?” ~ Mahmoud Darwish, from Memory for Forgetfulness: August, Beirut, 1982

Henri Matisse Olive Trees 1898

“Olive Trees” (1898)
by Henri Matisse

 

                   

Joaquim mir Trixnet Camino de la Casa Guell aka The Path to Casa Guell 1918 oil on canvas

“Camino de la Casa Guell (The Path to Casa Guell) (1918, oil on canvas)
by Joaquim Mir Trixnet

Two for Tuesday: One really long poem by Mahmoud Darwish

“My privacy is what
doesn’t lead to me, and it isn’t a dream
of death.” ~ Mahmoud Darwish from “Tuesday and the Weather is Clear”

Click here to read the poem in its entirety.

Tuesday and the Weather is Clear (Selected Passages)

Tuesday, clear weather, I walk on a side road
covered by a ceiling of chestnut trees, I walk lightly
as if I have evaporated from my body, as if I have
a meeting with one of the poems. Distracted,
I look at my watch and flip through the pages
of faraway clouds in which the sky inscribes
higher notions. I turn matters of my heart over
to walnut trees: vacancies, without electricity,
like a small hut on a seashore. Faster, slower, faster
I walk. I stare at the billboards on either side
but don’t memorize the words. I hum
a slow melody as the unemployed do:

“The river runs like a colt to his fate / the sea, and the birds
snatch love from the shoulder of the river.”

I obsess and whisper to myself: Live
your tomorrow now. No matter how long you live you won’t
reach tomorrow… tomorrow has no land… and dream
slowly… no matter how often you dream you’ll realize
the butterfly didn’t burn to illuminate you.

Light-footed I walk and look around me
hoping to see a simile between the adjectives of my self
and the willows of this space. But I discern
nothing that points to me.

If the canary doesn’t sing
to you, my friend… know that
you are the warden of your prison,
if the canary doesn’t sing to you.

There is no land as narrow as a pot for roses
like your land… and no land is as wide
as a book like your land… and your vision
is your exile in a world where shadow
has no identity or gravity.

You walk as if you were another.

……….

I walk lightly and grow older by ten minutes,
by twenty, sixty, I walk and life diminishes
in me gently as a slight cough does.

I think: What if I lingered, what
if I stopped? Would I stop time?
Would I bewilder death? I mock the notion
and ask myself: Where do I walk to
composed as an ostrich?

……….

I forget as I remember, or I remember that I forgot.

But I remember today,
Tuesday
and the weather is clear.

And I walk on a street that doesn’t lead
to a goal. Maybe my steps would guide me
to an empty bench in the garden, or
to an idea about the loss of truth between the aesthetic
and the real.

……….

Do I resemble the ancient
pastoral poet who the stars crowned as king of the night…
the one who renounced his throne when the stars
sent him as a shepherd for clouds?

……….

I walk as if I have a rendezvous…
maybe my steps would guide me to an empty bench
in the garden, or to an idea about the loss of truth
between the imaginary and the real.

……….

Was he the one I was
or was I the one I wasn’t?

She asks: Why do the clouds scratch the treetops?

I say: For one leg to cling to another beneath the drizzle.

– Why does a frightened cat stare at me?
– For you to put an end to the storm.

– Why does the stranger long for his yesterday?
– For poetry to depend on itself.

– Why does the sky become ashen at twilight?
– Because you didn’t water the flowers in the pot.

– Why do you exaggerate your satire?
– For song to eat a bit of bread every now and then.

– Why do we love then walk on empty roads?
– To conquer the plentitude of death with less death and escape the abyss.

– Why did I dream I saw a sparrow in my hand?
– Because you’re in need of someone.

– Why do you remind me of a tomorrow I do not see you in?
– You’re one of eternity’s features.

– You will walk alone to the tunnel of night when I’m gone.
– I will walk alone to the tunnel of night when you’re gone

…and I walk, heavy as if I have an appointment with one of the defeats.
I walk, and a poet within me readies himself for his eternal rest
in a London night: My friend on the road to Syria,
we haven’t reached Syria yet, don’t hurry, don’t make the jasmine
a bereaved mother, or test me with an elegy:
how do I lift the poem’s burden off you and me?

The poem of those who don’t love describing fog
is his poem.
The coat of the clouds over the church
is his coat.
The secret of two hearts seeking Barada
is his secret.
The palm tree of the Sumerian woman, mother of song,
is his tree.
And the keys of Cordoba in the south of mist
are his keys.
He doesn’t append his poems with his name,
the little girl knows him
if she feels the pinpricks
and the salt in her blood.
He, like me, is haunted by his heart,
and I, like him, don’t append my will to my name.
And the wind knows my family’s new address
on the slopes of an abyss
in the south of the Distant.

……….

The night became tranquil and complete, I woke up
as a flower and breathed by the garden fence.
I said to myself: I am witness that I’m still alive
even if from afar. And that I dreamt about the one who had been
dreaming, like me, I dreamt he was me and not another…
and that my day, Tuesday, was long and spacious,
and that my night was brief like a short act appended
to a play after the curtains had come down.
Still I won’t harm anyone
if I add: It was a beautiful day,
like a true love story aboard an express train.

If the canary doesn’t sing,
my friend,
blame only yourself.
If the canary doesn’t sing
to you, my friend,
then sing to it… sing to it.

Translated by Fady Joudah

                     

Music by Tom Odell, “I Think it’s Going to Rain Today”

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