Monday, June 27, 2016

A Song and the Sultan by Mahmoud Darwish

A Song and the Sultan

It was no more than the description of a burst of rain 
and handkerchiefs of lightning which burned the secret of trees— 
then why did they resist her? 
When she said that something different from this water 
runs in the river 
and the people of the shore are statues and other things, 
why did they torture her? 
When she told them the forest was abounding with secrets 
and the moon was stabbed with a carving knife 
and the blood of the nightingale was on that stone, abandoned, 
why did they resist her? 
Why did they torture her? 
When she said, my country is a mountain of sweat 
and on the small bridge a man is dying 
and darkness burning 
the Sultan was angry 
and the Sultan is an imaginative creature. 
He said, “The fault is in the mirror 
so let your singer be silent 
and let my kingdom from the Nile to the Euphrates be.” 
and he shouted, “Put that poem in prison!” 
The torture room, for security, 
is a thousand times better than an anthem or a newspaper. 
Go and tell the Sultan 
that the wind cannot be wounded by the shake of a sword 
that millions of trees can become green 
in the cupped hand of a single letter. 
But the Sultan was angry, and the Sultan is everywhere 
on stamps, in psalms, 
and on his forehead is the tattoo of hunting. 
He shouted, “It is ordered! 
Execute this poem!” 
Execution Square is the best anthology for obstinate sons. 
Go and tell the Sultan 
that lightning cannot be imprisoned in a corncob 
that songs are the logic of the sun 
and the history of sheaves 
and the nature of earthquakes. 
That songs like tree trunks may die in one land 
but sprout in every country 
The blue sun was an idea 
the Sultan tried to submerge 
but it became the birthday of an ember 
and the red sun has become an ember 
which the Sultan in vain imprisoned 
and suddenly the fire 
is a revolution! 
The voices of blood 
have taken the tone of a tempest 
and the pebbles of the Square are becoming 
like open wounds 
and I laugh, awed by the birth of the wind. 
When the Sultan resisted me 
I grasped the key of the morning 
and groped my way with the lamps of wounds. 
Oh how wise I was when I gave my heart 
to the call of the tempest! 
Let the tempest roar, 
O let the tempest roar . . . !

(Translated by Rose Styron)


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