Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Poem as Tribute | Taha Mohammed Ali

Taha Muhammad Ali died on Sunday in Nazareth. He was born in the Galilee village of Saffuriya in 1931.*

His poetry followed the experiences of Palestinians living in Israel, and Palestinian refugees around the world.

The beauty of this poem, on the nature of revenge and compassion, is universal. Revealing the power of love to heal, restore, and resolve conflict.


At times … I wish
I could meet in a duel
the man who killed my father
and razed our home,
expelling me
a narrow country.
And if he killed me,
I’d rest at last,
and if I were ready—
I would take my revenge!


But if it came to light,
when my rival appeared,
that he had a mother
waiting for him,
or a father who’d put
his right hand over
the heart’s place in his chest
whenever his son was late
even by just a quarter-hour
for a meeting they’d set—
then I would not kill him,
even if I could.


Likewise … I
would not murder him
if it were soon made clear
that he had a brother or sisters
who loved him and constantly longed to see him.
Or if he had a wife to greet him
and children who
couldn’t bear his absence
and whom his gifts would thrill.
Or if he had
friends or companions,
neighbors he knew
or allies from prison
or a hospital room,
or classmates from his school …
asking about him
and sending him regards.


But if he turned
out to be on his own—
cut off like a branch from a tree—
without a mother or father,
with neither a brother nor sister,
wifeless, without a child,
and without kin or neighbors or friends,
colleagues or companions,
then I’d add not a thing to his pain
within that aloneness—
not the torment of death,
and not the sorrow of passing away.
Instead I’d be content
to ignore him when I passed him by
on the street—as I
convinced myself
that paying him no attention
in itself was a kind of revenge.

April 15, 2006

© 2006 by Taha Muhammad Ali. English translation and copyright 2006 by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, and Gabriel Levin.

To learn more click here.

* His family fled to Lebanon with most of the inhabitants of his village during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. Unable to return to his home he moved to the nearby city of Nazareth where he lived and worked in a souvenir shop throughout his life as an Israeli citizen.

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