Today’s poem is a translation of a poem by the late Mahmoud Darwish by Fady Joudah. It appears in the collection If I Were Another.
Truth Has Two Faces and the Snow Is Black
Truth has two faces and the snow is black over our city.
We are no longer capable of despairing more than we have already,
and the end walks towards the fence confident of its footsteps
on this court that is wet with tears, confident of its footsteps.
Who will lower our flags: we, or they? And who
will dictate to us “the treaty of despair,” O king of dying?
Everything has been previously prepared for us, so who will tear our names
from our identities: you, or they? And who will plant in us
the speech of wandering: “We could not undo the siege
so let’s hand our paradise keys to the messenger of peace, and be saved…”
Truth has two faces, the sacred symbol was a sword for us
and against us, what have you done with our fortress up to this day?
You did not fight because you feared martyrdom, but your throne is your coffin
so carry your coffin to keep the throne, O king of waiting.
This departure will leave us like a fistful of dust…
Who will bury our days after us: you…or they? And who
will raise their banners above our walls: you…or
a despairing horseman? Who will hang their bells over our journey:
you…or a wretched guard? Everything has been previously prepared for us
so why then do you prolong the ending, O king of dying?
Mahmoud Darwish was a prolific poet and author who published over thirty volumes of poetry and eight books of prose over the course of his life. He was regarded widely as the Palestinian national poet. He died August 9, 2008.
Fady Joudah’s The Earth in the Attic won the Yale Series for Younger Poets prize in 2007.