On Mahmoud Darwish’s Birthday, a New Translation of ‘Dying for Free’

On the anniversary of the birth of the great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008), a new translation by Naser Albreeky:

‘Dying for Free’

Mahmoud Darwish

Translated by Naser Albreeky

Autumn passing through my flesh as a funeral of oranges..
coppery moon crumpled by minerals and sand
children falling in my heart upon the souls of men
all the pain is my share..not everything is being told…
and the arms of spilled blood call to me: come!
raise your neck to a sun made compassionate through blood
do not bury your dead! .. leave them as pillars of light
leave my spilled blood.. as a warning to the oppressors
let it lead them to the night
turn my blood into the green mountain’s match on the chest of the space
don’t ask poets to write eulogies for the kids of the orchard
the honor of childhood
lies in how it risks the safety of the tribe
I bless them with the glory that suckles blood and vice
I congratulate the executioner winning against the kohl-­rimmed eyes
so that he can borrow his winter coat from her braid
cheers to the opener/conqueror of the village
cheers to the slaughterer of children
O Kafr qāsim! .. the tombstones are gripped hands
tightening to the depths my roots
the roots of orphans struggling to extend their arms
yet we are remaining.. you noble hand, teach us how to orchestrate
we remain like the light, and the words, not twisted by shackles or pain
O Kafr qās!
the tombstones are gripped hands..!

Naser Albreeky is a freelance writer and translator based in New York City


  1. “Autumn passing through my flesh as a funeral of oranges..” What an opening line! Thank you for sharing this powerful poem.

  2. I’d like to celebrate Mahmoud Darwish’s birthday with a translation of his beautiful poem, If I Were a Hunter:
    لو كنتُ صياداً
    لأعطيتُ الغزالةَ فرصةً أولى
    لتغفو …
    واكتفيتُ بحصتي منها:
    سلامُ النفسِ تحت نُعاسِها.

    أنا قادرٌ لكنني أعفو
    مثلُ ماءِ النبعِ قربَ كناسها.

    لو كنتُ صيادا
    لآخيتُ الغزالة:
    “لا تخافي البندقية
    يا شقيقتي الشقية”
    واستمعنا، آمِنَيْن، إلى
    عواءِ الذئبِ في حقلٍ بعيد!

    If a hunter I were
    I’d give the gazelle
    a chance, and another,
    and a third, and a tenth,
    to doze a little. My share
    of the booty would be
    peace of mind under
    her dozing head.

    I have the power to vanquish
    but that I relinquish,
    and I become as pure
    as the water where
    she comes for a drink.

    If a hunter I were
    a fraternity I’d declare
    with the gazelle:
    “Don’t be scared of the rifle,
    wretched sister, it’s a trifle.”
    And we would listen, safe from harm,
    to the wolf’s howls in a distant farm.

Comments are closed.