Monday, October 12, 2009

The Eternity of Cactus (أبد الصبارة) - Mahmoud Darwish

-Where are you taking me, Father?
-To the side of the wind, my son.

... And as they depart from the plain, the plain
Where Bonaparte's troops raised a hill to watch over
The shadows on the ancient wall of Akka -
The father says to his son: Do not fear. Do not
Fear the bullet's hiss! Cling
To the earth to survive! We will survive, and we will climb
To the top of some northern mountain, and we will return
When the soldiers go back to their faraway folk.

-And who will live in the house after us, Father?
-It will remain as it is now, my son!

He felt for the house key as if he was touching
His limbs, and was comforted. And he said to the boy,
As they crossed a fence of thorns:
My son, remember! In this place the English crucified
Your father on the thorns of a cactus for two nights,
And he confessed to nothing. You will grow older, O
My son, and you will tell the tale to those who inherit the rifles,
The tale of blood on steel.

-Why have you left the horse alone?
-To keep the house company, my son,
For houses die when their inhabitants are gone.

Eternity opens its gates from afar
For the carriage of night. From the wasteland, wolves howl
To a frightened moon.
And the father says to his son: Be strong like your grandfather!
And climb with me this final hill of oaks.
My son, remember: Here the Janissaries fell
From their war-horses, so stand fast with me
So that we may return home.

-When, Father?
-Tomorrow. Probably two days from now, my son.

And it was a fickle tomorrow, gnawing the wind
Behind them on those cold winter nights.
And the armies of Yehusha ibn Nun were building
Their strongholds with the stones of the house.
And as the two of them stood panting on the road to Cana:

Our Lord passed long ago.
He made the water wine. And he gave many sermons
On love. O my son, remember
And remember the Crusader forts
Devoured by April grasses, after
The soldiers departed.

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