Mahmoud Darwish

13 March 1941 – 9 August 2008 / Palestinian

As He Walks Away

The enemy who drinks tea in our hovel
has a horse in smoke, a daughter with
thick eyebrow, brown eyes and long hair
braided over her shoulders
like a night of songs.
He's never without her picture
when he comes to drink our tea
but he forgets to tell us about her nightly chores
about a horse of ancient melodies
abandoned on a hilltop.
Relaxing in our shack, the enemy
slings his rifle over my grandfather's chair
eats our bread like any guest,
dozes off for a while on the wicker couch.
Then, as he stoops to pat our cat on the way out,
says:'Don't blame the victim.'
'And who might that be?' we ask.
'Blood that won't dry in the night.'
His coat-buttons flash as he walks away.
Good evening to you! Say hello to our well!
Say hello to our fig trees! Step gingerly
on our shadows in the barley fields.
Greet our pines on high. But please
don't leave the gate open at night.
And don't forget the horse's terror of airplanes.
And greet us there, if you have time.
That's what we want to say at the doorstep.
He hears it well enough,
but muffles it with a cough,
and waves it aside.
As long as the earth turns around itself inside us
the war will not end.
Let's be good then.
He asked us to be good while we're here.
He recites Yeats's poem about an Irish Airman:
'Those that I fight I don't hate,
Those that I guard I don't love.'
Then he leaves our wooden ramshackle hut
and walks eighty meters to our old stone house on the edge of the plain.
Greet our house for us, stranger.
The coffee cups are the same.
Can you smell our fingers still on them?
Can you tell your daughter
with the braid and thick eyebrows
she has an absent friend
who wishes to visit her, to enter her mirror
and see his secret.
How was she able to trace his age in this place?
Say hello to her, if you
have time.
What we want to tell him
he hears well enough, but muffles with a cough
and waves aside.
His coat buttons flash
as he walks away.

Translated from Arabic by Sargon Boulos
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