‘Silence for the Sake of Gaza,’ Mahmoud Darwish

Ibrahim Muhawi’s translation of Journal of an Ordinary Grief (Ar: 1973, Eng: 2010) is dedicated to the people of Gaza. This is from the section “Silence for the Sake of Gaza”:

Gaza is not the most beautiful of cities.

Her coast is not bluer than those of other Arab cities.

Her oranges are not the best in the Mediterranean.

Gaza is not the richest of cities.

(Fish and oranges and sand and tents forsaken by the winds, smuggled goods and hands for hire.)

And Gaza is not the most polished of cities, or the largest. But she is equivalent to the history of a nation, because she is the most repulsive among us in the eyes of the enemy – the poorest, the most desperate, and the most ferocious. Because she is a nightmare. Because she is oranges that explode, children without a childhood, aged men without an old age, and women without desire. Because she is all that, she is the most beautiful among us, the purest, the richest, and most worthy of love.

We are unfair to her when we search for her poems. Let us not disfigure the beauty of Gaza. The most beautiful thing in her is that she is free of poetry at a time when the rest of us tried to gain victory with poems. We believed ourselves and rejoiced when we saw that the enemy had left us alone to sing our songs while we left victory for him. When we dried the poems from our lips we saw that the enemy had already built entire cities, forts, and highways.

It would be unfair to turn Gaza into a legend because we will end up hating her when we discover she is nothing more than a small, poor city that resists. And when we ask, “What has made her into a legend?” we will have to break our mirrors and cry if we have any dignity, or curse her if we refused to rebel against ourselves.

It would be unfair to Gaza to glorify her because our fascination will make us wait for her. But Gaza will not come to us. Gaza will not liberate us. Gaza does not have horses, or jet fighters, or magic wands, or offices in capitals. Gaza frees herself of our attributes, our language, and of her conquerors all at once. And when we run into her, once upon a dream, she may not recognize us because she was born of fire while we were born of waiting and crying over our homes.

A longer excerpt is here. Sinan Antoon’s translation is here. Then buy the book. Or find it at your library; it may be there.