Saturday, 4 April 2015

D is for Dazzling...and Delicate...and Darwish

Darwish, Mahmoud (1941-2008)

Mahmoud Darwish was a notable Palestinian poet and political activist, writing in Arabic. He was perceived as  the national poet for Palestine, and was a symbol of the Palestinian resistance, sometimes confused with being anti-Israel. Darwish himself however, always denied accusations of anti-Semitism. Whatever his political stand, the mastery of his language and the beauty of his poetry is undeniable. My response here is to two of his poems - The Cypress Broke and In Jerusalem.

Repeat again

I read them over and over again
from cover to cover. Each couplet
a poem by itself, with its own burden
of crises: identity, exile, now and then
the hairline differences that offset
exile, immigrant and expatriate.

I read them over and over again
as if by reading one more time
the sense will suddenly leap out clean
in one more reading what these mean -
this absence or presence of rhyme
stock-still and quivering at end of line.

I read them over, ceaseless repeats,
fierce wonder heightens the cadence
I taste the words with fingertips
the looping curves and uprights stiff
it’s a stranger turning and it’s no chance
that he wears my face, and all my silence.

And he is my face, and he is my friend
and he is my yearning to come to rest
just for once at some oxbow’s bend
in an ancient village for a second;
and he’s my hand, daubing lentil paste,
and he’s at once a broken cypress.

He murmurs something, the wind stirs, whips
up words; they lodge in the marrows of moons;
they lodge in the spaces of my ribs
thrum them like strings, time’s broken nibs
and bridges of sighs between inopportune,
fractured lands and trees, half-sung half-tunes.

D is for Dispossessed. Something about the exile and their yearning for return resonates Deeply with me. Because my grandfather's family went through the upheaval of an unplanned Departure from a centuries old homestead, never to return again. I grew up on that extra-intense Dollop of yearning and nostalgia. The collective ancestral experience of exile/homelessness/Dispossession inherited and the endless spin-offs. 

D is also for Diversity. I come from a Diverse country indeed - 29 states, 22 official languages, innumerable art forms, handicrafts, oral storytelling, poetry, music and performing arts traditions, both classical and folk.  Some of them preserved unbroken for three millennia.  India is the birthplace of 4 major world faiths, and has adherents of all religions - Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Jains, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Bahais, every belief system one can think of.  India is a secular Democracy, for which I am Duly thankful.  Much of the MENA region, where I have lived for the past two decades, is still struggling to find a political system that suits the aspirations of their populations.

D is also for Different.  Tomorrow the Western world will observe Easter Sunday.  In Egypt, the Coptic Christians follow a Different calendar, the entire Eastern Orthodox Churches do, and thus the Eastern Orthodox Easter celebrations do not coincide with the Western one.  This year the Eastern Easter will be on 12th April.  Do you celebrate Easter? On which Date? Happy Easter to you, if you do, and whenever you celebrate.

Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2015


  1. Beautiful poem! Very touching.
    I'm Roman Catholic, so we celebrate Easter this weekend. But Hungarian Easter is also a little different... (I wrote about it on MopDog one time :) )

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary - Epics from A to Z
    MopDog - 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

  2. A revealing post, thanks for sharing.

  3. A thoughtful post--nicely done. We do celebrate Easter with the egg hunt and later church.

  4. Your poetry is impressive. I admire people who are gifted poets. I'm just not good at poetry. Easter is upon us but it doesn't feel like Easter for some reason. This year I am with my family and it's the first time we've ALL been together in many many years to tomorrow will truly be a celebration. I don't yet know what we're doing but it will be special for sure...even if it's just a regular dinner, for we are all under one roof and getting along! :)
    Michele at Angels Bark

  5. I didn't know they celebrated Easter on a different day. The date moves around a lot - I wonder if the two dates ever coincide?

    1. Yes, they do sometimes. I can remember at least two recent occasions - 2011 or 2012, and last year as well.

  6. I didn't realize they celebrated Easter on a different day either. Beautiful poem, and I like these varying definitions of those words. We will be celebrating Easter tomorrow! Happy Easter! :D

  7. Very comprehensive post. I didn't know about the different dates either. I'm in the USA where we celebrate tomorrow.

  8. The difference between the Eastern and Western traditions arises because one uses the Julian calendar and the other uses the Gregorian. The Coptic calendar is of course much older than the Julian calendar, it is based on the original ancient Egyptian calendar, but was synchronised to the Julian sometime in the 1st century AD by one of the Roman Emperors, possibly Augustus, I am not sure who. The Coptic and Ethiopian calendars are two of the oldest calendars still in use. I was not aware of these differences myself till I went to live in Egypt a few years ago. In India, Easter is observed based on the Gregorian calendar. There are Syrian Orthodox Christians is India, but in tiny numbers.

    The Orthodox Churches celebrate Christmas on 7th January, that's different too.
    @ Alex, , Mary, Cortney

  9. Thank you so much for sharing this poet and his poetry with us. So many folks now want to "judge" people/things/governments as if we can paint everything with a "Black" or "White" brush. Life is not black and white. It is gray, and full of a multitude of colors. Thank you again... Lisa, co-host AtoZ 2015, @

  10. A nice theme for the challenge. So many diverse poets and poems to read. Thanks for sharing.


  11. Hi Nila - love poem and interesting to read about Darwish .. and how some of his poetry was set to music ... sad he died after heart surgery. Dispossessed - yes I feel for you and many others ... and now with the Dispersals that are being forced by militants.

    Easter - I adhere to the Christian calendar ... Cheers Hilary

  12. Well done. This is an really interesting way to get through the challenge. Very creative.

  13. what to respond to? I read your poetic response and learned more about you...and you ask if I celebrate Easter...not really, but this morning I joined a friend on a cliff top to sing and pray at sunrise. I have a shamanic leaning, so being up there at sunrise, overlooking the ocean, with someone drumming, all in a stone circle with gulls wheeling in to see what was going on felt suitably shamanic

  14. It's Easter all the way for me, although I'm quite aware the original celebration was based on a pagan ritual. :-)


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