Adonis Diaries

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“Trailing a butterfly” by late Palestinian Mahmoud Darwish (Part 3, December 30, 2008)


            Routine in Gaza

Low atmospheric pressure; a north-western wind; rain drops, and a wrinkled gray sea is the background.  Autumn clouds (a euphemism, symbolic term for coming massacres); 30 fallen martyrs today in north Gaza. Two women died in a demonstration demanding their share of rights. 

Autumn clouds on a clear sunny day destroyed an entire family of 17 members under the debris of their home.  This unusual life is pretty much routine in Gaza. People can still wish a good morning if they survived a fighter jet bomb: They resume their routine of burying the martyrs.  

The people in Gaza are never sure to return to a standing home as the tanks and bulldozers surround the area. People of Gaza wish to be foxes to have safe heaven in grottos but there are none. We are asking that the devils agree for a short truth to bury the dead. 

(Gaza is surrounded by unfriendly States of Israel and Egypt of Mubarak)


            A rifle and a “kafane” (shroud)

“Nobody will defeat me; I will not subdue anyone” said a masked security man.  He fired his gun into air and said “the bullet will zoom in on its enemy”. 

The masked man is jobless and on a rampage for his private war:  There is no peace to defend and die for.

The man with the rifle was hungry; he fired one more (rashak) in the air hoping that a clump of grapes from heaven would fall to him. 

If peace is an interlude between two wars, the dead should have the right to vote: they would certainly vote for an Army General as leader. 

(Most of Israel’s PMs are Army Generals)


            If we wanted

We will be a people, if we want, when we realize that we are no angels, that evil is not the specialty of the “others”.

We will become a people when we desist of saying a prayer to the “Sacred Nation”, everytime a poor fellow finds something to eat for supper.

We will become a people when we can curse the Sultan and the valet of the Sultan without retribution;

When we forget what the tribe has ordered; when little details are appreciated and valued.

We can be a people when the police protect whores being beaten on the streets; when mixed marriage is a civil law.

We will be a people when we respect the just, the right, and the error, and the wrong.


            The law of fear

The killer looks at the ghost of the murdered, not in his eyes, without remorse.  He tells the mobs “Do not blame me: I was just scared

A few interpreted the sentence as the right to kill in self-defense.  A few shared their opinions saying “Justice is the overflow of the generosity of power”. 

Others said “Wouldn’t this murdered individual have a name in other nations?”  

The mob paid their condolence to the killer but when a foreigner wondered “But what is the reason for killing a baby?” 

The mob replied “Because one day this baby will grow up and then we will fear him”

But why kill the mother?  The mob said “Because she will raise a memory“. 

The mob shouted in unison “Fear and not justice is the foundation for authority


            Over my heart I walked (The poet had serious heart ailment)

As if my heart is a road, a street pavement, or air;

I walked over my heart.

My heart said to me: “Your question is tiring me; where to go when there is no land, no sky, and you always obey me”

I replied “Revolt against me, run, run; there is nothing behind us but the past“.

Trailing a butterfly by Mahmoud Darwish (Part 2, December 30, 2008)

Extracts of poems


            What…Why all that?

He is walking alone, having a short discussion with himself.  He is uttering words that are not meant to mean anything “What… Why is all that?” He does not mean to complain or even to inquire; the nonsense sentence is not meant to starting a tempo that could aid for a youthful walk. As he repeats “What…Why all that” he feels that he is in company.  The passerby does not believe that he is a lunatic; he is probably a poet receiving revelations from Satan.  He didn’t know why he recalled Genghis Khan; maybe he saw a white horse without a saddle, flying over a destroyed building in the valley.  An old man was pissing by an eucalyptus tree; the ascending young girls from the valley laughed at him and threw pistachios at him.


            Two strangers

He looks up and sees a shining star.  He looks down and sees his grave in the valley. He looks at a beautiful woman who does not notice him.  He looks in the mirror and a stranger looking like him is reflected to him


            We arrived late

There is a precarious stage we label “maturity”; we are neither optimist nor pessimist. We are past passion, longing, and recalling the opposite names of things.  We are too confused between forms and contents. We acquired the habit of pondering before speaking.  We adopted the style of physicians inspecting a wound.  We try to remember the past and wonder “How many mistakes have we committed? Have we reached wisdom a tad late?”  We are not sure from where the wind is blowing; what is the benefit if someone is still waiting for us by the foot of the mountain to share a prayer for our safe journey?  We are neither optimist nor pessimist; just a tad late.


            We wish the lad was a tree

An ancient poet said “I wished the lad was a rock”.  It would have been more appropriate if he wished the lad to be a tree.  A big tree cares for the smaller one; it prolongs its shadow and sends a bird, now and then, to keep company.  No tree violates its neighboring tree, and never mocks it if it does not bear fruit.  When a tree is transformed into a boat it learns to swim; when shaped in a door it keeps the secrets, when a desk it teaches the poet never to become a logger.  A tree stands respectful to passersby; it bends lightly with majesty to the winds.  I wish the lad was a tree.


            The talent of hope

Whenever he thought of hope he felt tired and bored. He invented a tricky illusion and said “Now, how can I measure a mirage?”  He rummaged through his documents and dusty files of who he was before his invention.  He could not find any copy where he might have noted down, events of fast beating heart and carelessness. He could not find a trace of standing in the rain for no reason.  Each time he thinks of hope the distance widens between a heavy body and a heart inflicted with wisdom.  He opened a window and saw two cats playing with a puppy dog.  He said: “hope is not the opposite of abjectness; maybe it is faith in a God who is careless; a God who let us rely on our individual talents to pierce through the cloud.” He said : “Hope is neither matter nor a concept. It is a talent”.  He swallowed a pill for blood pressure; he forgot to query Hope…he felt some kind of happiness of unknown source.

Trailing a butterfly (December 29, 2008)


Note:  The death toll in Gaza among the Palestinians has reached 350, the injured over 1000 and climbing steadily by the minutes. The World leaders are mute: they are waiting for the genocide to be complete. They don’t want another population reclaiming a land and chasing the original people out for a homeland.


I will liberally translate a few pieces from the diary of late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.  The diaries of “Trailing a Butterfly” are practically poems written in prose style from summer 2006 to summer 2007.


The roar of silence

I listen to silence.  I am hearing the cries of the first spirits as they found the original caves; the thump of the apple on a rock in the garden of God; the moaning of passion between the original males and females, not knowing what they are doing.  I can hear the secret negotiations among the ancient Gods; the whispering of the prophets with their wives as night falls.  I can hear the complaints of Emperors of their boredom; the music accompanying the ceremonies of the Secret sexual rituals.  I can hear the confusion of the chimpanzee as he jumped from a tree and started his first biped attempts, as he sat on the throne of the first tribe. I can hear the curses between Sarah and Hager.  If we listened to silence we would feel less the need to talk.


            He said “I am scared”

He shouted “I am scared”. The walls of closed in room reverberated with “I am scared” and every piece of furniture kept repeating “I am scared” for a long time.  He shouted “Stop it” but “I am scared” was the dominant cry in the vibrating air.  He went out to the street. He got afraid of a broken tree, of a military jeep screeching by.  He wanted to return to the safety of his room.  He was afraid that he forgot his keys, he was afraid that the electricity was out, he was afraid that he might slip on the staircase. He inserted the key and was afraid that the door would not open; he was afraid that someone might be sitting on his chair but he felt safe now.  He looked in the mirror and it was his face. He listened to silence and the walls had stopped repeating “I am scared”.  For some mysterious reasons he didn’t feel scared.


            I am absent

I live here for the past ten years. Tonight, I sit on a plastic chair in the tiny garden; I am mesmerized by a red rock.  I am counting the eleven stair steps to my room. On the right side a large fig tree overshadows a prune tree. To the left side stands a Lutheran Church.  By the staircase a rusted pail hangs out of an open ancient well; the few scrawny flowers have to content with the night dews.  I live here with 40 tenants; we are watching a live piece of theater, totally improvised, a very few in words of prohibition to cruise, to roam, to walk; a curfew on wandering about.  It is an improvised one act, sort of an ongoing composition, like our life. I look in the open window of my room and I love to improvise this sentence “Is anyone there?”  In the last act, everything will remain exactly the same and at its place, but I will fail to be in my room.  There got to be one absent, a vacant body: the location is getting too crowded.

            How far is far?

How far is far? How many are the passages and alleys? We walk toward the meaning of all of this and we keep walking.  The mirage is the guide book of the confused, to the far away sources; illusion is the negation and the hero.  We are walking, and in the desert mature our wisdom; we are not saying that the wandering is complete.  Our wisdom demands a light song for our hope not to get tired.




September 2021

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