I suppose there was hardly a person on the planet who didn't - at some point yesterday - remember what happened on the 11th September 2001. And people are still asking Why? I spent almost a decade living in the middle east - working for an arab broadcasting network at one point - and was always saddened by its troubled politics. The roots of the conflict that led to 9/11 go a long way back - some of them feeding on the genocide that led to the terrible injustice perpetrated by western colonialism. Until this conflict is resolved, I don't think anything will change. But I think the poets say it best. I'd like to put up two poems, one by Israeli poet Yehuda Amicai and the other by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and I've lit a candle (amnesty international) for peace.

Half the people in the world love the
other half, half the people hate the
other half . Must I, because of those
and the others, go and wander and
endlessly change, like rain in its cycle,
and sleep among rocks, and be rugged
like the trunks of olive trees, and hear
the moon bark at me and camouflage
my love with worries, and grow like the
timorous grass in between railway
tracks, and live in the ground like a
mole, and be with roots and not with
branches, and not rest my cheek upon
the cheeks of angels, and make love in
the first cave, and marry my wife under
the canopy of beams which support the
earth, and act out my death, always to
the last breath and the last words,
without ever understanding, and put
flagpoles on top of my house and a
shelter at the bottom. And set forth on
the roads made only for returning, and
go through all the terrifying stations -
cat, stick, fire, water, butcher, - between
the kid and the angel of death?

Yehuda Amicai

Earth Poem
A dull evening in a run-down village
Eyes half asleep
I recall thirty years
And five wars
I swear the future keeps
My ear of corn
And the singer croons
About a fire and some strangers
And the evening is just another evening
And the singer croons

And they asked him:
Why do you sing?
And he answered:
I sing because I sing
And they searched his chest
But could only find his heart
And they searched his heart
But could only find his people
And they searched his voice
But could only find his grief
And they searched his grief
But could only find his prison
And they searched his prison
But could only see themselves in chains.

Mahmoud Darwish


  1. Brilliant comemmorative post. Thank you yesterday and reflected how impatient I had become recently with some contemporary poets, constantly reaching for my Imperial new cloak.
    But these poems remind us of the fusion of our world identity and world responsibility while focusing on the intricacy of individual perception. For such scope, as your correspondent said yesterday, only a (good) poem will do.

  2. sorry - line missing. Should read
    ...I read your post yesterday and reflected ...

  3. Thanks Wendy. The one thing that makes me really mad is that the west still talks about the middle east as if it owns it and its destiny is our responsibility, not theirs. Their writers and academics and political thinkers (not politicians) rarely get any air time at all to talk about how things are for them.

  4. I didn't realise when I put up the two poems, but have just discovered that Mahmoud Darwish read a lot of Yehuda Amicai when he was young and just starting out as a poet - the two men had a great respect for each other. There's a very good clip on You Tube which shows Darwish reading his work, as well as a tribute to him after his recent death.


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