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Mahmoud Darwish

Be a String to My Guitar

Translated by Fady Joudah

Water, be a string to my guitar. The new conquerors have arrived
and the old ones have gone. It’s difficult to remember my face
in mirrors. Be my memory that I may see what I lost…
Who am I after this exodus? I have a rock
that carries my name over hills that overlook what has come
and gone…seven hundred years guide my funeral behind the city walls…
and in vain time circles to save my past from a moment
that gives birth to the history of exile in me…and in others…
Water, be a string to my guitar, the new conquerors have arrived
and the old ones have gone south as nations who renovate their days
in the rubble of transformation: I know who I was yesterday, so what
will I become tomorrow under the Atlantic banners of Columbus? Be a string,
water, be a string to my guitar. There is no Egypt in Egypt, no
Fez in Fez, and Syria is distant. And no hawk
in my kin’s banner, no river east of the palm trees besieged
by quick Mongol horses. In which Andalus will I end? Right here
or over there? I will know that I perished here and left my best
behind me: my past. Nothing remains for me except my guitar,
O water, be a string to my guitar. The conquerors have gone
and the conquerors have come…


Excerpted from IF I WERE ANOTHER by Mahmoud Darwish, translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah, to be published in November by Farrar, Straus, and Grioux, LLC. Translation Copyright © 2009 by Fady Joudah. All rights Reserved. CAUTION: Users are warned that the Work appearing herein is protected under copyright laws and reproduction of the text, in any form for distribution is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the Work via any medium must be secured with the copyright owner.