Mahmoud Darwish

13 March 1941 – 9 August 2008 / Palestinian

Psalm One

To love you or not to love you-
I go away, leaving behind me
addresses susceptible to loss and wait
for those who will return; they know
the visiting hours of my death, so they come.
You are the one I don't love
when I love you. The walls of Babylon
shrink in the day; your eyes enlarge;
and your face incandesces in the glare.
One would think you were not born yet; we had not been separated before; you had not felled me.
On the terraces of the storm every word is beautiful; every meeting
a farewell.
Nothing between us except this encounter; nothing
except this farewell.
To love you, or not to love you-
My forehead flees from me; I sense that you are
nothing or everything; that you are susceptible to loss.
To want you, or not to want you-
The murmer of streams sears in my blood. The day I see you
I go away.
I tried to recover the friendship of lost things-
I tried to boast of eyes capable of containing every fall-
Tried to carve around your waste a name suitable for an olive
but it begot a star.
I want you when I say I don't want you.
My face falls.
A distant river dissolves my body. And in the marketplace
they sell my blood like canned soup.
I want you when I say I want you-
Woman who has placed the shores of the Mediterranean
in her lap, the gardens of Asia
on her shoulders, and all the chains
in her heart.
To want you, or not to want you-
The murmer of streams, the rustle of pines, the surge
of oceans, and the feathers of nightingales all
sear in my blood.
The day I see you, I go away.

To sing you, or not to sing you-
I hush. I cry. There is no special time for crying
or hushing. You are my sole crying.
You are my single silence.
My skin constricts around my throat; under my window
the wind marches in uniform; darkness
waxes without warning.
When the soldiers abandon the palms of my hands
I will write something.
When the soldiers desert my feet
I will walk a little.
When the soldiers relinquish my vision
I will see you and discover myself again.
To sing you, or not to sing you
You are the sole song; you sing me if I hush.
You are the only silence.
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