Mahmoud Darwish
Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008)
Not Like A Foreign Tourist Would
I walked over what remained of the heart
northward. . .
three abandoned churchesoned churches,
evergreen oaks on both sides,
villages like dots on effaced letters,
and a girl on the grass reading
what resembles poetry:
If I were older
if I were older,
the wolf would have surrendered to me!

I wasn’t sentimental, or a “Don Juan”
so I did not sit down on the grass
but, in secret, I said:
If I were younger
if I were twenty years younger,
I would have shared some water and sandwiches with her
and taught her how to touch the rainbow

I walked, like a foreign tourist does. . .
with a camera and my guide – a small book
It had poems describing this place
by many a foreign poet
I felt I was the speaker in them
and were it not for the differences in rhymes,
I would have said:
I am my other

I was tracing the description of the place.
More trees here
a moon missing there
and as in the poems:
Grass grows on a stone in pain
It is neither a dream,
nor a symbol signifying a national bird
Merely a cloud that bloomed
One step, two, three. . . I found that spring
was too short for apricot trees
and as soon as I looked at the almond flowers
I was scattered between two dimples
I walked following the freckles
left by little birds in poems

Then I wondered:
How can a place become a reflection
of its image in myths?
Or an adjective in speech?
Is the object’s image more powerful
than the object itself?
Were it not for my imagination, my other would have said:
You are not here!

I was not realistic, but I do not believe the history
of the general’s Iliad
It is poetry: a myth that created a reality
and I wondered: Had there been cameras and journalists
over the walls of the Asian Troy
would Homer have written anything other than the Odyssey?

I hold this sumptuous air,
Galilee’s air,
with both hands
I chew it like the mountain goats
chew on treetops
I walk and acquaint myself with itself:
You, O self, are one of this place’s adjectives

Three abandoned churches,
broken minarets,
evergreen oaks on both sides,
villages like dots on effaced letters,
and a girl on the grass asking a phantom:
Why did you grow old and not wait for me?
He says to her: I was not present
when the silk dress became too tight for two apples
so sing as you did just now:
If I were older
if I were older

As for me, I will enter the berry tree
where the silkworm will turn me into a thread
Then I will enter the needle of a woman
from the myths,
and fly like a shawl
with the wind

Translated by Sinan Antoon

from La ta’tadhir ‘amma fa’alt, [Do Not Apologize For What You Did],
Riad El-Rayyes Books, Beirut 2004