I Have a Seat in the Abandoned Theater

By Mahmoud Darwish 1942–2008 Mahmoud Darwish

Translated By Fady Joudah

I have a seat in the abandoned theater
in Beirut. I might forget, and I might recall
the final act without longing ... not because of anything
other than that the play was not written
skillfully ...
Chaos
as in the war days of those in despair, and an autobiography
of the spectators’ impulse. The actors were tearing up their scripts
and searching for the author among us, we the witnesses
sitting in our seats
I tell my neighbor the artist: Don’t draw your weapon,
and wait, unless you’re the author!
—No
Then he asks me: And you are you the author?
—No
So we sit scared. I say: Be a neutral
hero to escape from an obvious fate
He says: No hero dies revered in the second
scene. I will wait for the rest. Maybe I would
revise one of the acts. And maybe I would mend
what the iron has done to my brothers
So I say: It is you then?
He responds: You and I are two masked authors and two masked
witnesses
I say: How is this my concern? I’m a spectator
He says: No spectators at chasm’s door ... and no
one is neutral here. And you must choose
your part in the end
So I say: I’m missing the beginning, what’s the beginning?

Mahmoud Darwish, "I Have a Seat in the Abandoned Theater" from The Butterfly’s Burden. Copyright © 2008 by Mahmoud Darwish, English translation by Fady Joudah.  Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press. www.coppercanyonpress.org

Source: The Butterfly’s Burden (Copper Canyon Press, 2007)

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Poet Mahmoud Darwish 1942–2008

POET’S REGION Middle East

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Heroes & Patriotism, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

 Mahmoud  Darwish

Biography

Palestinian Mahmoud Darwish was born in al-Birwa in Galilee, a village that was occupied and later razed by the Israeli army. Because they had missed the official Israeli census, Darwish and his family were considered “internal refugees” or “present-absent aliens.” Darwish lived for many years in exile in Beirut and Paris. He is the author of over 30 books of poetry and eight books of prose, and earned the Lannan Cultural . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Heroes & Patriotism, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

POET’S REGION Middle East

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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