The On Being Project

The Poetry Radio Project


Mahmoud, so spare inside his elegant suit,
 stepped across stony fields, bent to brush
 the petal of a flower, didn't pick it.
 Closed his eyes, though, holding one hand with the other,
 carrying the presence of blossom back to the page.
 For those who would never walk a field, never bend down,
 he found a way to carry the cry of a lost goat and
 the cry of a people, without stumbling.
 Don't forget the streaks of tears
 mapping his soft cheeks, his large and somber glasses,
 the edgy poke of his thin shoulder—
 how he stood a bit to the side, hand over heart,
 his delicate hand on the stem of a glass,
 toasting the roads and the wandering winds.
 Mothers and fathers, enduring without justice,
 felt his dapper presence sustaining them
 though they might have found it hard to name,
 the unchosen beauty of struggle and love
 mixing in a fresh tonic any might drink.
 His brilliance spilled in every
 language, though Arabic owned him,
 he became a perfect country
 moving through the world, wherever he was,
 and he its ruler, teacher and prophet,
 he its infinite dusty workers pausing with shovels
 to stare beyond the ruin they could see,
 to what they will always believe in.

In Memory, Mahmoud Darwish, 1942-2008

This poem is excerpted with permission from Naomi Shihab Nye’s collection of poetry, Transfer. For more poetry, visit our Poetry Radio Project.

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