I must remind you that starving a child is violence. Suppressing a culture is violence. Neglecting school children is violence. Punishing a mother and her family is violence. Discrimination against a working man is violence. Ghetto housing is violence. Ignoring medical need is violence. Contempt for poverty is violence.
Your voice floats
Like a sleepy narcissus
On the evening’s water
And I am a shore
Thinking of drowning
—Sinan Antoon, from “Just Another Evening (In Black and You),” The Baghdad Blues (Harbor Mountain Press, 2007)
Loving someone who hates themselves
is a special kind of violence.
A fight inside the bones.
A war within the blood.
you are crying
and the angels sit
telling him to stop
feeling so pained
“where does it hurt?” they ask,
he points to you.
today i was stage assisting at an event tent at The Word on the Street Literary festival in Toronto and i overheard one of the speakers say, “I survived because I was a fighter”, then went on to detail the way she overcame her illness.
no. you survived because you survived. people fight death and succumb all the time, people have death thrown into their cards with no chance all the time. dying is not weakness, nor is it failure.
you do not need to build the triumph of your survival in opposition to the ‘failure’ of those who have died.
Do not regret a war that ripened you just as August ripens pomegranates on the slopes of stolen mountains. For there is no other hell waiting for you. What once was yours is now against you. And you must defend the discrete letters of your name as a cat would its kittens. Do what you must: defend the window’s right to look at passersby. Do not ridicule yourself if you are incapable of providing proof. Air is air and does not require a certificate of blood. Do not regret! Do not regret what you missed when you took a nap; recording the names of invaders in the book of sand. Ants narrate and the rain erases… So do not blame your ancestors for bequeathing you the innocence of looking at hills without the readiness to receive revelation from a low sky, but rather to count the stars on your ten fingers. How are you to prove the obvious when proof thirsts to loot self-evidence like a pirate thirsting for a lost ship? The obvious is defenseless like a gazelle stabbed by safety, like you. Like you in this field wide-open to armed archeologists who never cease to interrogate you: Who are you? You check all your body parts and say: I am myself. They say: Where is the proof? You say: I am. They say: That is not enough. We need lack. So you say: I am both perfection and lack. They say: Say that you are a stone so we can end our excavation. You say: If only the young man were a stone. But they did not understand you.
— Mahmoud Darwish, from “I”, In the Presence of Absence, transl. by Sinan Antoon (Archipelago, 2012)