'Under Siege' by Mahmoud Darwish
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Here on the slopes of hills, facing the dusk and the cannon of timeClose to the gardens of broken shadows,We do what prisoners do,And what the jobless do:We cultivate hope.***A country preparing for dawn. We grow less intelligentFor we closely watch the hour of victory:No night in our night lit up by the shellingOur enemies are watchful and light the light for usIn the darkness of cellars.***Here there is no "I".Here Adam remembers the dust of his clay.***On the verge of death, he says:I have no trace left to lose:
Free I am so close to my liberty. My future lies in my own hand.Soon I shall penetrate my life,I shall be born free and parentless,And as my name I shall choose azure letters...***You who stand in the doorway, come in,Drink Arabic coffee with usAnd you will sense that you are men like usYou who stand in the doorways of housesCome out of our morningtimes,We shall feel reassured to beMen like you!***When the planes disappear, the white, white dovesFly off and wash the cheeks of heavenWith unbound wings taking radiance back again, taking possessionOf the ether and of play. Higher, higher still, the white, white dovesFly off. Ah, if only the skyWere real [a man passing between two bombs said to me].***Cypresses behind the soldiers, minarets protectingThe sky from collapse. Behind the hedge of steelSoldiers piss—under the watchful eye of a tank—And the autumnal day ends its golden wandering inA street as wide as a church after Sunday mass...***[To a killer] If you had contemplated the victim’s faceAnd thought it through, you would have remembered your mother in theGas chamber, you would have been freed from the reason for the rifleAnd you would have changed your mind: this is not the wayto find one’s identity again.***The siege is a waiting periodWaiting on the tilted ladder in the middle of the storm.***Alone, we are alone as far down as the sedimentWere it not for the visits of the rainbows.***We have brothers behind this expanse.Excellent brothers. They love us. They watch us and weep.Then, in secret, they tell each other:"Ah! if this siege had been declared..." They do not finish their sentence:"Don’t abandon us, don’t leave us."***Our losses: between two and eight martyrs each day.And ten wounded.And twenty homes.And fifty olive trees...Added to this the structural flaw thatWill arrive at the poem, the play, and the unfinished canvas.***A woman told the cloud: cover my belovedFor my clothing is drenched with his blood.***If you are not rain, my loveBe treeSated with fertility, be treeIf you are not tree, my loveBe stoneSaturated with humidity, be stoneIf you are not stone, my loveBe moonIn the dream of the beloved woman, be moon[So spoke a womanto her son at his funeral]***Oh watchmen! Are you not wearyOf lying in wait for the light in our saltAnd of the incandescence of the rose in our woundAre you not weary, oh watchmen?***A little of this absolute and blue infinityWould be enoughTo lighten the burden of these timesAnd to cleanse the mire of this place.***It is up to the soul to come down from its mountAnd on its silken feet walkBy my side, hand in hand, like two longtimeFriends who share the ancient breadAnd the antique glass of wineMay we walk this road togetherAnd then our days will take different directions:I, beyond nature, which in turnWill choose to squat on a high-up rock.***On my rubble the shadow grows green,And the wolf is dozing on the skin of my goatHe dreams as I do, as the angel doesThat life is here...not over there.***In the state of siege, time becomes spaceTransfixed in its eternityIn the state of siege, space becomes timeThat has missed its yesterday and its tomorrow.***The martyr encircles me every time I live a new dayAnd questions me: Where were you? Take every wordYou have given me back to the dictionariesAnd relieve the sleepers from the echo’s buzz.***The martyr enlightens me: beyond the expanseI did not lookFor the virgins of immortality for I love lifeOn earth, amid fig trees and pines,But I cannot reach it, and then, too, I took aim at itWith my last possession: the blood in the body of azure.***The martyr warned me: Do not believe their ululationsBelieve my father when, weeping, he looks at my photographHow did we trade roles, my son, how did you precede me.I first, I the first one!***The martyr encircles me: my place and my crude furniture are all that I have changed.I put a gazelle on my bed,And a crescent of moon on my fingerTo appease my sorrow.***The siege will last in order to convince us we must choose an enslavement that does no harm, in fullest liberty!***Resisting means assuring oneself of the heart’s health,The health of the testicles and of your tenacious disease:The disease of hope.***And in what remains of the dawn, I walk toward my exteriorAnd in what remains of the night, I hear the sound of footsteps inside me.***Greetings to the one who shares with me an attention toThe drunkenness of light, the light of the butterfly, in theBlackness of this tunnel!***Greetings to the one who shares my glass with meIn the denseness of a night outflanking the two spaces:Greetings to my apparition.***My friends are always preparing a farewell feast for me,A soothing grave in the shade of oak treesA marble epitaph of timeAnd always I anticipate them at the funeral:Who then has died...who?***Writing is a puppy biting nothingnessWriting wounds without a trace of blood.***Our cups of coffee. Birds green treesIn the blue shade, the sun gambols from one wallTo another like a gazelleThe water in the clouds has the unlimited shape of what is left to usOf the sky. And other things of suspended memoriesReveal that this morning is powerful and splendid,And that we are the guests of eternity.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Under Siege by Mahmoud Darwish: A Masterpiece of Resistance Poetry
I just finished reading Mahmoud Darwish's "Under Siege," and I am blown away by the depth of his poetic vision and the intensity of his political critique. This poem is a powerful meditation on the nature of oppression, the possibility of resistance, and the resilience of the human spirit.
The Poem in Context
"Under Siege" was first published in 1982, during the height of the Israeli occupation of Lebanon, and it reflects Darwish's own experience of living under siege in Beirut. The poem is emblematic of the Palestinian literary tradition of resistance poetry, which seeks to articulate the experience of oppression and to affirm the humanity and dignity of the oppressed.
The Structure of the Poem
"Under Siege" is structured in seven sections, each of which explores a different aspect of the experience of living under siege. The first section introduces the theme of siege, describing the experience of being cut off from the outside world and trapped in a claustrophobic environment. The second section focuses on the psychological effects of siege, describing the despair and hopelessness that can arise when one is trapped in a situation where there seems to be no way out.
The third section introduces the theme of memory, emphasizing the importance of remembering the past in order to understand the present. The fourth section explores the theme of resistance, suggesting that even in the most dire circumstances, there is always the possibility of resistance and struggle. The fifth section focuses on the theme of solidarity, emphasizing the importance of community and mutual support in the face of oppression.
The sixth section introduces the theme of identity, exploring the complex ways in which identity is shaped by the experience of oppression. Finally, the seventh section concludes the poem with a note of hope, suggesting that even in the darkest of times, there is always the possibility of renewal and regeneration.
The Language and Imagery of the Poem
Darwish's poetic language in "Under Siege" is rich and evocative, drawing on a range of literary and cultural traditions to create a complex and layered text. The poem is full of powerful imagery, such as the image of the "walls that are closing in" in the first section, which conveys a sense of claustrophobia and entrapment. Other images, such as the "thunderous silence" of the second section, convey a sense of the emotional intensity of the experience of living under siege.
One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of metaphor and symbolism. For example, the image of the "sieve" in the first section symbolizes the way in which people are sifted and sorted by the forces of oppression, while the image of the "tree" in the fourth section represents the possibility of resistance and renewal.
The Political and Social Context of the Poem
"Under Siege" is a deeply political poem, and it must be understood in the context of the ongoing struggle for Palestinian liberation. Darwish uses his poetry to challenge the dominant narratives of oppression and to assert the humanity and dignity of the Palestinian people. The poem is a powerful critique of the Israeli occupation, and it exposes the ways in which the occupation functions to dehumanize and oppress the Palestinian people.
At the same time, the poem is also a celebration of the resilience and resistance of the Palestinian people. Darwish affirms the importance of solidarity and community in the face of oppression, and he suggests that even in the most difficult circumstances, there is always the possibility of struggle and resistance.
"Under Siege" is a masterful work of poetry that speaks to the human experience of oppression and resistance. Darwish's language is rich and evocative, and his imagery and symbolism convey a powerful sense of the psychological and emotional impact of living under siege. The poem is deeply political, and it must be understood in the context of the ongoing struggle for Palestinian liberation. But at its heart, "Under Siege" is a testament to the resilience and dignity of the human spirit in the face of even the most brutal forms of oppression.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Under Siege: An Analysis of Mahmoud Darwish's Masterpiece
Mahmoud Darwish's Poetry Under Siege is a masterpiece that captures the essence of Palestinian struggle and resistance against Israeli occupation. The poem is a powerful expression of the pain, suffering, and hope of a people who have been subjected to decades of oppression and violence. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language used by Darwish to convey his message and the impact of his work on Palestinian literature and culture.
The poem is divided into three parts, each representing a different stage in the Palestinian struggle. The first part, titled "The Siege," describes the physical and psychological barriers that Palestinians face under Israeli occupation. The second part, "The Road," is a journey through the history of Palestine, from its ancient past to its modern-day struggles. The final part, "The Earth," is a celebration of Palestinian identity and culture, a call for resistance and hope.
The first part of the poem is a powerful depiction of the physical and psychological barriers that Palestinians face under Israeli occupation. Darwish uses vivid imagery to describe the checkpoints, walls, and fences that separate Palestinians from their land, their families, and their freedom. He writes:
"The siege is a waiting room Where time is not measured by hours But by the rhythm of a heart that beats In the silence of a closed room"
This stanza captures the sense of isolation and confinement that Palestinians feel under occupation. The use of the word "waiting room" suggests a sense of suspended time, as if the Palestinians are stuck in a state of limbo, waiting for something to happen. The reference to the "rhythm of a heart" adds a sense of urgency and emotion to the poem, as if the Palestinians are struggling to survive in a hostile environment.
Darwish also uses powerful metaphors to describe the impact of the siege on Palestinian society. He writes:
"The siege is a wound that never heals A scar that never fades A memory that never forgets"
These lines capture the sense of trauma and pain that Palestinians experience under occupation. The use of the word "wound" suggests a physical injury, while the reference to a "scar" implies a permanent mark on the body and soul of the Palestinian people. The final line, "A memory that never forgets," suggests that the Palestinian struggle is not just a political or military conflict, but a deeply personal and emotional experience.
The second part of the poem is a journey through the history of Palestine, from its ancient past to its modern-day struggles. Darwish uses a variety of literary devices, including allusions, metaphors, and imagery, to create a vivid and powerful narrative of Palestinian history. He writes:
"The road is a map of memory A journey through the ruins of time A pilgrimage to the heart of a land That has been lost and found again"
These lines capture the sense of continuity and resilience in Palestinian history. The use of the word "memory" suggests that the past is not just a distant memory, but a living presence in Palestinian culture and identity. The reference to "ruins of time" implies that Palestinian history is not just a linear progression, but a complex and layered narrative of conquest, resistance, and survival.
Darwish also uses powerful metaphors to describe the impact of colonialism and imperialism on Palestinian society. He writes:
"The road is a wound that never heals A scar that never fades A memory that never forgets"
These lines echo the metaphors used in the first part of the poem, but with a different emphasis. Here, the "wound" and "scar" are not just physical injuries, but symbolic representations of the ongoing trauma and pain of colonialism and imperialism. The reference to "memory" suggests that Palestinian history is not just a passive record of events, but an active and ongoing struggle for justice and freedom.
The final part of the poem is a celebration of Palestinian identity and culture, a call for resistance and hope. Darwish uses a variety of literary devices, including repetition, imagery, and metaphor, to create a powerful and uplifting message of resilience and resistance. He writes:
"The earth is a homeland that never dies A mother that never forgets her children A lover that never abandons her beloved A dream that never fades away"
These lines capture the sense of connection and belonging that Palestinians feel to their land and culture. The use of the word "homeland" suggests a deep and abiding attachment to the land, while the reference to "mother" and "lover" implies a sense of nurturing and protection. The final line, "A dream that never fades away," suggests that Palestinian identity and culture are not just a historical or cultural artifact, but a living and dynamic force that inspires hope and resistance.
Darwish also uses powerful metaphors to describe the impact of resistance and hope on Palestinian society. He writes:
"The earth is a poem that never ends A song that never stops A dance that never tires A prayer that never fades away"
These lines capture the sense of creativity and vitality that Palestinians bring to their struggle for justice and freedom. The use of the word "poem" suggests a sense of beauty and artistry, while the reference to "song" and "dance" implies a sense of joy and celebration. The final line, "A prayer that never fades away," suggests that Palestinian resistance is not just a political or military struggle, but a spiritual and moral one as well.
In conclusion, Mahmoud Darwish's Poetry Under Siege is a masterpiece of Palestinian literature and culture. The poem captures the essence of Palestinian struggle and resistance against Israeli occupation, using powerful imagery, metaphor, and language to convey a message of pain, suffering, and hope. The poem is a testament to the resilience and creativity of the Palestinian people, and a call to action for all those who believe in justice and freedom.
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