A river dies of thirst by Darwish mahmoud (archipelago, 2009)

MAHMOUD DARWISHA River Dies of Thirst journalsTranslated from the Arabic by Catherine Cobhamarchipelago booksOriginally published as A thar al-Farasha, by Riad…
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MAHMOUD DARWISHA River Dies of Thirst journalsTranslated from the Arabic by Catherine Cobhamarchipelago booksOriginally published as A thar al-Farasha, by Riad El-Rayyes Books, Ltd. in Beirut in 2008 CopyrightŠ Mahmoud Darwish/Actes Sud, 2009 English translation copyrightŠ Catherine Cobham, 2009 FirstArchipelago Books Edition, 2009All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without prior written permission of the publisher. Library of Congress Cataloging-in- Publication Data Darwish, Mahmud. [Athar al-farashah. English] A river dies of thirst: journals =Athar al-farasha : yawmiyyat I Mahmoud Darwish ; translated by Catherine Cobham. p. cm. ISBN 978-0-09819557-1-1I. Cobham, Catherine. II. Title. III. Title: Athar al-farasha. P]782o.A7A8713 2009 892.71'6--dc222009012083Archipelago Books 232 Third Street, SuiteA1n Brooklyn, NY n215www. Distributed by Consortium Book Sales and Distributionwww.cbsd.comPrinted in the U.S.A. Cover art: "Les hiboux et les courbeaux" from the Kalila wa Dimna reproduced with the permission of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France This publication was made possible with support from Lannan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.Contents The girl/The scream Green flies Like a prose poem If only I were a stone Beyond identification The enemy Nero34 5 67 89 10The forest DovesIIThe house as casualty12The cunning of the metaphor The mosquito An eagle flying low1315A personal duty17A common enemy18The rest of a life19The colour yellow21If only the young were trees22We arrived too late23Two strangers24What's it all for?25A talent for hope2614I am only him27I did not dream28The pretty girls' neighbour29How far is far?30He sees himself as absent31He said: 'I'm afraid'32The roar of silence33A person chasing himself34A longing to forget35A river dies of thirst36The wall37The law of fear38I walked on my heart39Routine40A gun and a shroud4IIf we want to42Cheated time44Perfection45One, two, three46Empty boxes47On nothingness My imagination . . . a faithful hunting dog49If I were someone else5048Assassination51Rustling53A metaphor54In the company of things55A shawl made of silk56A sort of loss57A shameful land58Summer and winter59A coloured cloud6oA spring passing quickly61Life to the last drop63The butterfly effect64I was not with me65The faces of truth66As if he were asleep67Visible music68The road to where69The humour of eternity70The indifferent one71The picture and the frame72Snow73An infectious disease74A bed of lavender7576Most and least I am jealous of everything around you78Lose one of your starsSoPrivate meetings81She said to him82A sneeze83In praise of wine84At the top of the cypress trees85Point of view86The mercy bullet87Shyness88Perfection is the same as imperfection89Prickly pear91In the empty square92A short holiday93Fame94If I were a hunter95Nightmare96Iraq's night is long97In Cordoba99In Madrid101High is the mountain103I don't notice104That word105Echo106The second olive tree107Willow tree108Right of return to paradise109If it were not for sinIIOItalian autumnIIITwo travellers to a riverII2A killer and innocentII3As if she is a songIl5My poet/my othern6A clear sky and a green gardenIl7A single wordII8The essence of the poemII9Satire121On oratory and orators122Half and half124I think125The second line126Higher and further127The canary128On a boat on theNile129The lonely man's addiction130In Rabat131Description132In Skogas133The exile finds his way135Boulevard St Germain136Things would be different138¡A life beginning139The hand of the statue140In Beirut141The return of]une142If only people envied us144From now on you are somebody else145From now on you are you149AcknowledgementsI am very grateful to Sabry Hafez for his invaluable help with the meanings and cultural contexts of a number of words and phrases. I would also like to thank John Burnside, Maudemarie Clark, David Cobham, Dina Frangi, Ronak Husni, Javier Letran and Tetz Rooke for their useful comments on specific linguistic, literary or other cultural issues. Responsibility for any mistakes and infelicities rests with me. Catherine Cobham StAndrews, 2009A River Dies of ThirstThe girl/The scream On the seashore is a girl, and the girl has a family and the family has a house.And the house has two windows and a door And in the sea is a warship having fun catching promenaders on the seashore: Four, five, seven fall down on the sand. And the girl is saved for a while because a hazy hand a divine hand of some sort helps her, so she calls out: 'Father Father! Let's go home,the sea is not for people like us!' Her father doesn't answer, laid out on his shadow windward of the sunset blood in the palm trees, blood in the clouds Her voice carries her higher and further than the seashore. She screams at night over the land The echo has no echo so she becomes the endless scream in the breaking news which was no longer breaking news when the aircraft returned to bomb a house with two windows and a door.I3Green flies The scene is the same as ever. Summer and sweat, and an imagination incapable of seeing beyond the horizon. And today is better than tomorrow. But the dead are what's new.They're born every day and when they're trying to sleep death takes them away from their drowsiness into a sleep without dreams. It's not worth counting them. None of them asks for help from anyone. Voices search for words in the open country, and the echo comes back clearly, woundingly: 'There's nobody here.' But there's somebody who says: 'It's the killer's right to defend the killer instinct,' while the dead say belatedly: 'It's the victim's right to defend his right to scream.' The call to prayer rises to accompany the indistinguishable funerals: coffins hastily raised in the air, hastily buried - no time to carry out the rites, more dead are arriving at speed from other raids, individ�ally or in groups, or a whole family with no orphans or grieving parents left behind. The sky is leaden grey and the sea blue grey, but the colour of blood is hidden from the camera by swarms of green flies.Like a prose poem An autumnal summer on the hills is like a prose poem. The breeze isa gentle rhythm I feel but do not hear in the modest little trees, and the yellowish plants are peeling images, and eloquence provokes similes with its cunning verbs. The only celebration on these mountain paths is provided by the lively sparrows, who flit between sense and nonsense. Nature is a body divesting itself of trivial adornment until the figs, grapes and pomegranates ripen and the rain awakens forgotten desires. 'If it weren't for my mysterious need for poetry, I wouldn't need anything,' says the poet, whose enthusiasm has waned so his mistakes have become less frequent. He walks because the doctors have advised him to walk, with no particular goal, to train the heart in a kind of indifference necessary for good health. Any idea that occurs to him will be purely gratuitous. The summer only rarely lends itself to verse. The summer is a prose poem which takes no interest in the eagles circling high above.IsIf only I were a stone I would yearn for nothing no yesterday passing, no tomorrow to come and my present neither advancing nor retreating Nothing happening to me! If only I were a stone - I said - Oh if only I were some stone so that water would burnish me green, yellow - I would be placed in a room like a sculpture, or exercises in sculpture or material for the eruption of the necessary from the folly of the unnecessary If only I were a stone so that I could yearn for something!Beyond identification I sit in front of the television, since I can't do anything else. There, in front of the television, I discover my feelings and see what's happening to me. Smoke is rising from me and I reach out my severed hand to pick up my scattered limbs from many bodies, and I don't find them but I don't run away from them either because pain has such an attraction. I am besieged by land and air and sea and language. The last aircraft has taken off from Beirut airport and put me in front of the television to witness t�e rest of my death with millions of other viewers. Nothing proves that I exist when I think, as Descartes says, but rather when I am offered up in sacrifice, now, in Lebanon. I enter the television, I and the beast. I know the beast is stronger than me in the struggle between aircraft and bird. But I have become addicted, perhaps more than I should have, to the heroism of the metaphor: the beast has swallowed me but has not digested me. I have emerged unscathed more than once. My soul, which was confused iri the belly of the beast, has inhabited another body, lighter and stronger. But now I don't know where I am: in front of the television or inside it. Whereas I can see my heart, rolling like a pine cone from a Lebanese mountain to Rafah!The enemy I was there a month ago. I was there a year ago. I was always there as if I was never anywhere else. In 1982 the same thing happened to us as is happening now. We were besieged and killed and fought against the hell we encountered. The casualties/martyrs don't resemble one another. Each of them has a distinctive physique and distinctive features, different eyes and a different name and age. The killers are the ones who all look the same. They are one being, distributed over different pieces of hardware, pressing electronic buttons, killing and vanishing. He sees us but we don't see him, not because he's a ghost but because he's a steel mask on an idea - he is featureless, eyeless, ageless and nameless. It is he who has chosen to have a single name: the enemy.Nero What's going on in Nero's mind as he watches Lebanon burn� His eyes wander ecstatically and he walks like someone dancing at a wedding: This madness is my madness, I know best, so let them set light to everything beyond my control. And the children have to learn to behave themselves and stop shouting when I'm playing my tunes! And what's going on in Nero's mind as he watches Iraq burn� Does it please him that he awakens a memory in the history of the jungle that preserves his name as an enemy of Hamurabbi and Gilgamesh and Abu Nuwas: My law is the mother of all laws, the flower of eternity grows in my fields, and poetry - what does that mean� And what goes on in Nero's mind as he watches Palestine burn� Does it delight him that his name is recorded in the roll of prophets as a prophet that nobody's ever believed in beford As a prophet of killing who God entrusted with correcting the countless mistakes in the heavenly books: I too am God's mouthpiece! And what goes on in Nero's mind as he watches the world burn� I am master of the Day of Judgement. Then he orders the camera to stop rolling, because he doesn't want anyone to see that his fingers are on fire at the end of this long American movie!I9The forest I couldn't hear my voice in the forest, even if the forest were free of the beast's hunger and the army defeated or victorious - there's no difference- had returned over the severed limbs of the unknown dead to the barracks or the throne And I couldn't hear my voice in the forest, even if the wind carried it to me, and said to me: 'This is your voice; I couldn't hear it I couldn't hear my voice in the forest, even if the wolf stood on his hind legs and applauded me: 'I can hear your voice, so give me your orders!' And I said: 'The forest is not in the forest Father wolf, my son!' I couldn't hear my voice unless the forest were free of me, and I were free of the silence of the forest.Doves A flight of doves scatters suddenly from a break in the smoke, shining like a gleam of heavenly peace, circling between the grey and the fragments of blue above a city of rubble and reminding us that beauty still exists and that non-existence is not making complete fools of us since it promises us, or so we like to think, a revelation of how it is different from nothingness. In war none of us feels that he is dead if he feels pain. Death pre-empts pain, pain is the one blessing in war. It moves from quarter to quarter bringing a stay of execution. And if someone is befriended by luck he forgets his long-term plans and waits for the non-existent which already exists circling in a flight of doves. I see many doves in the skies of Lebanon playing with the smoke which rises from the nothingness.The house as casualty In one minute the entire life of a house is ended. The house as casualty is also mass murder, even if it is empty of its inhabitants. A mass grave of raw materials intended to build a structure with meaning, or a poem with no importance in time of war. The house as casualty is the severance of things from their relationships and from the names of feelings, and from the need of tragedy to direct its eloquence at seeing into the life of the object. In every object there is a being in pain - a memory of fingers, of a smell, an image. And houses are killed just like their inhabitants. And the memory of objects is killed: stone, wood, glass, iron, cement are scattered in broken fragments like living beings. And cotton, silk, linen, papers, books are torn to pieces like proscribed words. Plates, spoons, toys, records, taps, pipes, door handles, fridges, washing machines, flower vases, jars of olives and pickles, tinned food all break just like their owners. Salt, sugar, spices, boxes of matches, pills, contraceptives, antidepressants, strings of garlic, onions, tomatoes, dried okra, rice and lentils are crushed to pieces just like their owners. Rent agreements, marriage documents, birth certificates, water and electricity bills, identity cards, passports, love letters are torn to shreds rzIlike their owners' hearts. Photographs, toothbrushes, combs, cosmetics, shoes, underwear, sheets, towels fly in every direction like family secrets broadcast aloud in the devastation. All these things are a memory of the people who no longer have them and of the objects that no longer have the people - destroyed in a minute. Our things die like us, but they aren't buried with us.The cunning of the metaphor Metaphorically I say: 'I won' Metaphorically I say: 'I lost' And a bottomless valley stretches in front of me and I lie in what remains of the holm oak And there are two olive trees surrounding me on three sides and two birds carry me to the side which is empty of the peak and the abyss so that I don't say: 'I won' so that I don't say: 'I lost the bet.'The mosquito The mosquito, and I don't know what the masculine form of the word is in Arabic, is more destructive than slander. Not content with sucking your blood, it forces you into a fruitless battle. It only visits in darkness like al-Mutanabbi's fever. It buzzes and hums like a warplane which you don't hear until it has hit its target: your blood. You switch on the light to see it and it disappears into some secret corner of the room, then settles on the wall - safe, peaceful, as if it has surrendered. You try to kill it with one of your shoes, but it dodges you and escapes and reappears with an air of malicious satisfaction. You curse it loudly but it pays no heed. You negotiate a truce with it in a friendly voice: 'Sleep so that I can sleep!' You think you've convinced it and switch off the light and go to sleep. But having sucked most of your blood it starts humming again, threatening a new attack. And forces you into a subsidiary battle with your perspiration. You turn on the light again and resist the two of them, the mosquito and the sweat, by reading. But the mosquito lands on the page you are reading, and you say happily to yourself: 'It's fallen into the trap.' And you snap the book shut: 'I've killed it . . . I've killed it!' And when you open the book, to glory in your victory, there's no sign of14 Ithe mosquito or the words. Your book is blank. The mosquito, and I don't know what the masculine form of the word is in Arabic, is not a metaphor, an allusion or a play on words. It's an insect which likes your blood and can smell it from twenty miles away. There's only one way you can bargain with it to make a truce: by changing your blood type.An eagle flying lowThe traveller in the poem said to the traveller in the poem: 'How much further do you have to go�' �l theway' 'So go then, go as if you have arrived, and not arrived' 'If there weren't so many ways to go, my heart would be a hoopoe and I would know the way' 'If your heart were a hoopoe I would follow it' 'Who are you?What's your name?' ' I have no name on my journey' 'Shall I see you again?' 'Yes. On two mountain tops with a loud echo and a chasm between them, I will see you' 'And how shall we jump the chasm as we are not birds?' 'We will sing: "Who sees us we cannot see and who we see cannot see us" ' 'Then what�' 'We won't sing' 'Then what?' 'Then you ask me and I ask you:I�"How much further do you have to go�" ''All the way" "Is all the way far enough for the traveller to arrivd" "No. But I see a fabulous eagle circling above us, flying low!" 'A personal duty They shouted ' Hero!' at him, and paraded him in public squares. Young girls' hearts leapt at the sight of him, and from their balconies they pelted him with rice and lilies. Poets hostile to poetic convention addressed him in the rhetoric required to inflame the language: 'Our hero! Our hope!' And he, raised shoulder high like a victory flag, almost¡ lost his name in the flood of epithets. Shy as a bride on her wedding day: 'I did nothing. I was just doing my duty.'Next morning he found himself alone, recalling a distant past that waved at him with amputated fingers: 'Our hero! Our hope!' He looked around and saw none of yesterday's enthusiastic audience. He sat in lonely rooms, searching his body for traces of heroism, picking out the splinters and collecting them in a metal dish, feeling no pain. 'The pain is not here. The pain is elsewhere. But who is listening to their cry for help now�' He felt hungry. He searched for tins of sardines and brown beans and found they were past their sell-by date. He smiled and muttered: 'Heroism too has its sell-by date,' and realised he had done his patriotic duty!A common enemy It is time for the war to have a siesta. The fighters go to their girlfriends, tired and afraid their words will be misinterpreted: 'We won because we did not die, and our enemies won because they did not die.' For defeat is a forlorn expression. But the individual fighter is not a soldier in the presence of the one he loves: 'If your eyes hadn't been aimed at my heart the bullet would have penetrated it!' Or: 'If I hadn't been so eager to avoid being killed, I wouldn't have killed anyone!' Or: 'I was afraid for you if I died, so I survived to put your mind at rest.' Or: 'Heroism is a word we only use at the graveside.' Or: ' In battle I did not think of victory but of being safe, and of the freckles on your back.' Or: 'How little difference there is between safety and peace and the room where you sleep.' Or: ''When I was thirsty I asked my enemy for water and he didn't hear me, so I spoke your name and my thirst was quenched.' Fighters on both sides say similar things in the presence of
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