I Come From There

I come from there and I have memories
Born as mortals are, I have a mother
And a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends,
And a prison cell with a cold window.
Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,
I have my own view,
And an extra blade of grass.
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,
And the bounty of birds,
And the immortal olive tree.
I walked this land before the swords
Turned its living body into a laden table.
I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother
When the sky weeps for her mother.
And I weep to make myself known
To a returning cloud.
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood
So that I could break the rule.
I learnt all the words and broke them up
To make a single word: Homeland….

— Mahmoud Darwish

The tomb of Mahmoud Darwish, Ramallah, West BankRawan Nassrallah / CC BY-SA 3.0

The tomb of Mahmoud Darwish,
Ramallah, West Bank
Rawan Nassrallah / CC BY-SA 3.0

Poet-activist Mahmoud Darwish grew up a “present-absent alien” (internal refugee) in the Palestine after his family home and village were destroyed in the war(s) of 1948. An increasingly outspoken critic of the Israeli government, he was arrested and ultimately placed under house arrest in the 1960s when his poem “ID (Identity) Card” was set to music as a protest anthem. He left the Palestine in 1970 and joined the PLO in 1973; he was subsequently banned from returning to the region. He lived in exile for 26 years, returning to the West Bank only in 1996.