New Internationalist

This Land Is My Land

Issue 277

This land is my land

IDENTITY CARD

Write down
I am an Arab
I am a name without a family name
I am patient in a country where everything
lives by the eruption of anger.
My roots
    gripped down before time began
    before the blossoming of ages
    before cypress trees & olive trees
    … before grass sprouted.
My father
    is from the family of the plough
    not from a noble line
& my grandfather
    was a peasant
    without nobility without genealogy!
& my house
    is a crop-warden’s shack
    built of sticks and reeds.
Does my social status satisfy you?
I am a name without a family name.

Write down
I am an Arab.
You usurped my grandfather’s vineyards
& the plot of land I used to plough
I & all my children
& you left us
    & all my grandchildren
nothing but these rocks... so
your government
will it take them too as rumour has it?
So be it.
Write down at the top of the first page:
I do not hate people.
I steal from no-one.
However
    if I am hungry
    I will eat the flesh of my usurper.
Beware beware of my hunger
& of my anger.

Mahmoud Darwish

 

JEWS IN THE LAND OF ISRAEL

We keep forgetting where we came from.
Our Jewish names
From the Diaspora unmask us,
Evoking memories of flowers and fruits, medieval cities, metals,
Knights who turned to stone, many roses
Perfumes evaporated long ago, precious stones, a lot
Of red, handiwork that vanished from the world
(The hands too).

What are we doing here, returning with this pain.
The longings dried out with the swamps.
Our desert blooms and our children
are beautiful.
Even shards of ships that sank on the way,
Reached this shore,
Even winds did. Not all the sails.

What are we doing
In this dark land casting
Yellow shadows that slice our eyes?
(Sometimes, a person would say after forty
or fifty years: ‘The sun is killing me’.)
What are we doing with our misty souls, our names,
Our forest eyes, our beautiful children,
Our swift blood?

Spilt blood is not roots of trees
But it is the closest to roots
Human beings have.

Yehuda Amichai

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©Copyright: New Internationalist 1996


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