Saturday, October 15, 2011

taha muhammad ali

I have just discovered that Taha Muhammad Ali has died. In a different world he would be (will be) widely recognized as a truly great artist.

The news reached me through Wood's Lot. This site, more than any other, serendipitously drops words, pictures and paragraphs that stop me in my tracks and plant me a little more deeply where I stand. Doubly true today. This news. And then this Taha Muhammad Ali poem, to his notebook.

Empty Words

Ah, little notebook,
yellow as a spike of wheat
and still as a face,
I’ve protected you
from dampness and rodents
and entrusted you with
my sadness and fear,
and my dreams—
though in exchange I’ve gotten from you
only disobedience and betrayal…
For otherwise where are the words
that would have me saying:
If only I were a rock on a hill…
unable to see or hear,
be sad or suffer!
And where is the passage
whose tenor is this:
I wish I could be
a rock on a hill
which the young men
from Hebron explode
and offer as a gift to Jerusalem’s children,
ammunition for their palms and slings!

And where is the passage
in which I wanted
to be a rock on a hill
gazing. out from on high
hundreds of years from now
over hordes ,.
of masked liberators!

And where is what belongs
to my dream of being
a rock on a hill
along the Carmel—
where I call on the source of my sadness,
gazing out over the waves
and thinking of her
to whom I bade
farewell at the harbor pier
in Haifa forty years ago
and still…
I await her return
one evening
with the doves of the sea.

Is it fair, little notebook,
yellow as a spike of wheat
and still as a face,
that you conceal
what you cancel and erase,
simply because it consists of empty words—
which frighten no enemy
and offer no hope to a friend?

from NEVER MIND, Twenty Poems and a Story, translated by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, Gabriel Levin, Poetry dipatch

1 comment:

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