PARADISE GATE (for Mahmoud Darwish)

Mahmoud Darwish: The great Palestinian poet who died August 9th, 2008, from complications arising from an open heart surgery operation in Texas, flown back to Ramala, Palestine, where his funeral and burial was attended and mourned by thousands of people… given a state funeral not occurring since the burial of Arafat.

He was the Pablo Neruda of the Middle East, and most intimately the Palestinians or any displaced nation or persons, giving voice to such tragic and poignant realities that audiences would weep openly at his public readings. I was fortunate to work on the English of translations of his poems with Munir Akash, for a book that appeared from Jusoor and Syracuse University Press, The Adam of Two Edens, as well as the preliminary work on the book from the Lannan Foundation/University of California Press, Unfortunately It Was Paradise. Our last collaboration was State of Siege, published by Jusoor and Syracuse. I also met him and read our versions with him at an Arab Anti-Defamation League gathering in Washington D.C., and heard the careful and deep music of his originals, and noted how often it was accompanied by the sound of the audience weeping.

He began as a political poet defying the tragic political reality of his people, and ended as a lyrical-epic poet, “epic” in that, as Pound stipulated, his poems “contain history.” His rich imagination and passion and his dignity infuse his poems with the proud and grief-stricken representative voice of an entire ethnicity, and his like may not pass by this way again in terms of his towering literary stature and public appreciation.

In Memoriam Mahmoud Darwish

The exile dies and
finds he’s home

All lamented fig trees and
cups of pungent coffee

sweet steam in twists above them

All horses tied to fences
lonely without their donkeys

in long green pastures

All glimpses of far ocean
across the barbed wire of enemy territory

now held in a divinely vibrant wisp in the air
for a split second before dispersal

at lickety-split speed over the earth’s mirror
as the world’s top spins below

And the grieving exile opens his sapphire eyes
now polished to a precious sheen

on unforeseen landscapes not exactly
reassembled from the precise gazes in his

poems but partaking of certain
mosaic resemblances puzzled together

And also sees Paradise Gate open before him
and all his doubts and denials

now banished as brutally as he was
into inconsequential territories

afloat under fig trees
wrapped in fresh roasted

swirls of coffee

at home at last
among departed comrades

8/13/2008 (from Sparks Off the Main Strike)

Categories: Poems, Misc