Tuesday Poem: 'I sing because I sing', Mahmoud Darwish and Yehuda Amichai

This week I'm posting a powerful poem by one of the great Palestinian poets, the voice of exile, Mahmoud Darwish, and another by one of the greatest Israeli poets, Yehuda Amichai, writing about the loneliness of exile and the need for homeland. 

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

Half the People in the World

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 Amichai

Yehuda Amichai was born in Germany to an Orthodox Jewish family who emigrated to Palestine in 1935.  He fought in World War II and began writing poetry in 1946 while stationed with the British Army in Egypt. Amichai later fought in the Israeli War of Independence, the 1956  Sinai War, and then in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. His experiences led to a complete change of heart. He became an advocate of peace and reconciliation in the region, working with Arab writers.  One of his poems, "God has pity on kindergarten children", was read at the Nobel Peace Prize presentation in 1994.  He died from cancer in 2000.

Mahmoud Darwish was born in Palestine in 1941 and is regarded as the Palestinian national poet. In his work, Palestine became a metaphor for the loss of Eden, birth and resurrection, and the anguish of dispossession and exile.  One of his last collections was called ‘Unfortunately it was Paradise’. His voice, more than any other, articulates the suffering of the Palestinian people.  It was written from personal experience.  His family were farmers, but their village near Galilee was invaded by Israeli forces in 1948 and razed to the ground to prevent the inhabitants from returning. Darwish spent some time living in Haifa where he fell in love with a Jewish woman - a relationship that could not be allowed.  He left Israel to study in 1970.  Darwish spent most of his life in exile, being allowed to return to live in Ramallah in 1995. He was an outspoken critic of the rivalry between Fatah and Hamas, as well as the Israeli state.  One of his most famous poems is  "A Soldier Dreams of White Lilies", featured in the film ‘Id-the identity of the soul’. He died from heart failure in 2008.

If you would like to see what other Tuesday Poets are posting around the world then please hop over to the Tuesday Poem hub and take a look. 


  1. Powerful stuff. I lived in Israel working as an agricultural worker on two different moshavs for 8 months. I went there in October 1987 and one month later the first intifada started. There are many people on both sides of the conflict that wish to live peacefully side by side, but it seems the "hawks" of both sides push their own agendas far too strongly. Many, many Israeli Jews feel extremely uncomfortable with the way Palestinians are treated.

    1. Thanks for your comments Ben Hur. Yes, I agree with you. I have Israeli friends who are appalled at the situation, but their voices aren't heard. A miracle needs to happen to achieve peace.


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