In Her Absence I Created Her Image

By Mahmoud Darwish 1942–2008 Mahmoud Darwish

Translated By Fady Joudah

In her absence I created her image: out of the earthly
the hidden heavenly commences. I am here weighing
the expanse with the Jahili odes ... and absence
is the guide, it is the guide. For each rhyme a tent
is pitched. And for each thing blowing in the wind
a rhyme. Absence teaches me its lesson: If it weren’t
for the mirage you wouldn’t have been steadfast ...
Then in the emptiness, I disassembled a letter from one
of the ancient alphabets, and I leaned on absence. So who am I
after the visitation? A bird, or a passerby amid the symbols
and the memory vendors? As if I were an antique piece,
as if I were a ghost sneaking in from Yabous, telling myself:
Let’s go to the seven hills. Then I placed
my mask on a stone, and walked as the sleepless
walk, led by my dream. And from one moon
to another I leapt. There is enough of unconsciousness
to liberate things from their history. And there
is enough of history to liberate unconsciousness
from its ascension. Take me to our early
years—my first girlfriend says. Leave
the windows open for the house sparrow to enter
your dream—I say ... then I awaken, and no city is in
the city. No “here” except “there.” And no there
but here. If it weren’t for the mirage
I wouldn’t have walked to the seven hills ...
if it weren’t for the mirage!

Mahmoud Darwish, "In Her Absence I Created Her Image" 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 History & Politics, Poetry & Poets, Relationships, Time & Brevity

 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 History & Politics, Poetry & Poets, Relationships, Time & Brevity

POET’S REGION Middle East

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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