Cactus Forever

Mahmoud Darwish

Where are you taking me, Father?

In the direction of the wind, my son

...Departing from the plain, where
Bonaparte’s soldiers have built a hill to
Observe the shadows over the old wall in Acre,
The father says to his son:  Do not be afraid. Do not
Fear the whisper of bullets.
Hug the ground in order to escape!
We shall escape and ascend upon a mountain in the north and
Return when the soldiers go back to their far away families

Who will live in our home after we leave, father?
It shall remain in the same condition as it was, my son.
He touches his key, like it is part
Of his body and he relaxes.
While they pass through a thorn fence, he told him:
Remember, my son,
Here, the English crucified your father
On cactus thorns
For two nights
and he never confessed.
When you grow older, my son
And recite to those who inherit rifles
An epic of blood on iron.

Why did you leave the horse alone?
—To be a companion to the house, my son
Homes die after their inhabitants leave.

Eternity opens its door from afar, for the
Vehicle of night.
Wild wolves howl at a scared moon.
And the father says to his son:
Be Brave
Be Brave like your grandfather and
Ascend the final hill of oak trees with me
My son, remember:  Here the Janissiary
Fell from the mule of war.
So stand up with me so we can go back.

When Father?
Tomorrow or maybe after two days, my son.

And it was a arbitrary tomorrow
Chewing the wind
Behind them during long winter nights.

And Joshua’s army was building its fortress from the stones of the
Boy and his Father.
They, panting on the road to Qana:
“Here our prophet passed one day
Here he made water turn into wine.
He talked at length of love
My son remember tomorrow and
Remember the crusader fortress
Gnawed at by April’s grass
After the soldiers  have departed.”

The poem is from Mahmoud Darwish’s Why Have You Left The Horse Alone (London & Beirut: Riyad El-Rayes Books, 1995).

Translated, from the Arabic, by Nezar Andary

This poem appeared in Al Jadid, Vol. 3, no. 14 (January 1997)

Copyright (c) 1997 by Al Jadid

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