This extraordinary poem by Mahmoud Darwish appears in the new (October 2008) issue of The Progressive. Many thanks to Darwish’s American translator, Fady Joudah (see here and here), for bringing Darwish to us in such supple English.
To Describe Almond Blossoms
To describe almond blossoms, the glossary of flowers
doesn’t come to my aid, and neither does the dictionary…
speech will snatch me to the scam of eloquence.
And eloquence wounds meaning then eulogizes the wound,
like a man who dictates to a woman her feelings.
How can almond blossoms radiate in my language
when I’m an echo?
And they are diaphanous like laughing water that sprouts
from the branches out of the sentry dew…
They are lightweight like a white musical phrase,
weak like a flash of thought
that stares at our fingers
before we carve it in vain…
the density of a stanza that isn’t written with letters.
To describe almond blossoms I need visitations
to the subconscious to guide me to the name of an emotion
that hangs on trees. What is its name?
What is its name, this thing in the poetics of nothing?
I need to pierce gravity and speech
and sense the lightness of words when they become
a whispering spirit, I need to become the words and they me,
Words are not land or exile.
Words are the yearning whiteness to describe almond blossoms:
Not snow and not cotton, so what are they
if they’re above things and names?
Yet if a writer could manage in a fragment
to describe almond blossoms, fog would recede
from the hills, and a whole nation would say:
This is it!
These are the words of our national anthem.
Translated by Fady Joudah