May 15: The Nakba at 67

May 15 is the day Palestinians and supporters of Palestinian rights to self-determination commemorate the Nakba, or Catastrophe, which forced hundreds of thousands of the native population out of Mandatory Palestine.  Today, the Nakba is 67 years old.  On this occasion, I’m re-posting an entry from two years ago: parts of Mahmoud Darwish’s 2004 Amsterdam Speech, and the half a dozen lines from Darwish’s Under Siege, “If You Were Not the Rain, My Love.”  The art work is by Vera Tamari, extraordinary artist, and friend.  In ceramic, wood, acrylic and paint, these two images are part of a series on ancestral memory and loss. ~~


A person can only be born in one place; however, he may die several times elsewhere: in the exiles and prisons, and in a homeland transformed by the occupation and oppression into a nightmare. Poetry is perhaps what teaches us to nurture the charming illusion: how to be re-born out of ourselves over and over again, and use words to construct a better world, a fictitious world that enables us to sign a pact for a permanent and comprehensive peace… with life.

You know, of course, that I am from Palestine. What an exciting name; ambiguous, open to every possible interpretation, it evokes a certain longing and counter-longing, and triggers emotions of pity or anger. But the imaginary ancient Palestine, called “the land of love and peace”, mother of the prophets, and the meeting point of earth and sky, does not resemble the real Palestine flooding with blood and tears. It is denied peace because its people are deprived of freedom; denied love because its people are deprived of justice; denied a better tomorrow close at hand because its occupied present is surrounded by walls of hatred that deprive its people of hope.



If you were not the rain, my love, then be the tree
Saturated and bountiful, be the tree.
And if you were not the tree, my love, then be the stone
Saturated and moist,  be the stone.
And if you were not the stone, my love, then be the moon
In the dream of the loved one, be the moon.
This is what a woman said to her son at his funeral.

~~Excerpt from Under Siege by Mahmoud Darwish~~

Translated from the Arabic by Taline Voskeritchian and Christopher Millis


About Taline Voskeritchian

Writing teacher at Boston University; translator (from Arabic and Armenian); prose writer; occasional editor; incurable wanderer.
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