Mahmoud Darwish: I am from there (From Arabic)

This poem ends by making innovative use of the technical linguistic terminology of the Arab grammarian tradition. It annoys me that the existing translations into English underplay or ignore this coolness.

I Am From There
By Mahmoud Darwish
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click here to hear me read the poem in Arabic

I am from there and I have memories. Like any other
Man I was born. I have a mother,
A house with several windows, friends and brothers.
I have a prison cell's cold window, a wave
Snatched by seagulls, my own view, an extra blade
Of grass, a moon at word's end, a supply
Of birds, and an olive tree that cannot die.
I walked and crossed the land before the crossing
Of swords made a banquet-table of a body.

I come from there, and I return the sky
To its mother when it cries for her, and cry
For a cloud on its return
To recognize me. I have learned
All words befitting of blood's court to break
The rule; I have learned all the words to take
The lexicon apart for one noun's sake,
The compound I must make:

The Original:

انا من هناك
محمود درويش

أنا من هناك. ولي ذكرياتٌ . ولدت كما تولد الناس. لي والدة
وبيتٌ كثير النوافذِ. لي إخوةٌ. أصدقاء. وسجنٌ بنافذة باردهْ.
ولي موجةٌ خطَِفتها النوارس. لي مشهدي الخاص. لي عُشْبةٌ زائدهْ
ولي قمرٌ في أقاصي الكلام، ورزقُ الطيور، وزيتونةٌ خالدهْ

مررتُ على الأرض قبل مرور السيوف على جسدٍ حوّلوه إلى مائدهْ.
أنا من هناك. أعيد السماء إلى أمها حين تبكي السماء على أمها،
وأبكي لتعرفني غيمةٌ عائدهْ.
تعلّمتُ كل كلام يليقُ بمحكمة الدم كي أكسر القاعدهْ
تعلّمتُ كل الكلام، وفككته كي أركب مفردةً واحدهْ
هي: الوطنُ...


  1. the "blade / of extra grass" - is it a sword being compared to the grass, and thus evoking the vertiginous realization that the difference between the two is not so great, or is it actual grass, and thus demonstrative of the speaker's great bounty? Is it either - is it just as ambiguous in the original language?

    It's very arresting, that phrase.

    I'm finding your entire body of work absolutely fascinating.

  2. Blade here doesn't have too do with "the sharp tool." it means a blade of the grass (one of them only). In the source language , Arabic, there is a words that means the singular for grass, but it is not found in English. So it is not ambiguous in Arabic.

  3. Thank you Mr. Foreman, I like your translation, and I like your reading as well.

  4. Thank you for your lovely translation. May I ask, from which collection is this poem taken? Is it a recent one?

  5. It's a beautiful poem in any language.

  6. In the Arabic text there is no mention to the word blade,that's for sure. The poet said an extra or additional grass in the scenary,but the word grass enriched the text. Thank you for your fine translation which is almost typical to the original Arabic text.