Poem by Mahmoud Darwish

Tighten my fetters,

confiscate my papers

and cigarettes,

fill my mouth with dust.

Poetry is the blood in the heart,

salt in bread,

moisture in eyes.

It is written with fingernails,

with eyes,

with daggers.

I shall proclaim my detention cell,

in the bathroom,

in the stable,

under the lash,


in the violence of chains,

that a million birds,

on the branches of my heart,

are singing fighting songs.

Note: I first met Professor Jabra Ibrahim Jabra (a Palestinian) when I visited in Iraq in the 1980’s. He was Head of the department of Literature at Baghdad University. He  went to Iraq in 1948. Being a poet himself he gave me poems to include in my anthology of Arabic poetry ‘Feathers and the Horizon’. He gave me this poem by Mahmoud Darwish so I included it in my anthology. Jabra was a wonderful person. He told me a great deal about the tragedy of Palestine and gave me many poems by Palestinian poets. He was such a civilized person I asked him for his definition of a truly civilized person. His answer was – ‘The one who makes the leap to the other’s mind.’ – He added ‘This is particularly important if the other is angry.’ Surely we should all across the world make the leap to the minds of Palestinians who have suffered so much over so many years and continue to suffer.

Anne Fairbairn, AM