In the Presence of Absence
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One of the most transcendent poets of his generation, Darwish composed this remarkable elegy at the apex of his creativity, but with the full knowledge that his death was imminent. Thinking it might be his final work, he summoned all his poetic genius to create a luminous work that defies categorization. In stunning language, Darwish’s self-elegy inhabits a rare space where opposites bleed and blend into each other. Prose and poetry, life and death, home and exile are all sung by the poet and his other. On the threshold of im/mortality, the poet looks back at his own existence, intertwined with that of his people. Through these lyrical meditations on love, longing, Palestine, history, friendship, family, and the ongoing conversation between life and death, the poet bids himself and his readers a poignant farewell.
tell imagination: You are the only reality I can depend on. And you slept. You fell in love with your body, and it fell in love with you. The pleasant numbness of exhaustion enters your pores one by one. A flock of seagulls flutters over you, flapping low over the sea’s song to the ships. A poignant song looking back to a departing land and to a time departing like a superfluous text recorded by a superfluous people without book or land. Suddenly, the seagulls shed their whiteness and become
yearning of words for their initial realm, even if yours were obscure and foreign to those around you. But I, you tell yourself, prefer being a stranger in exile to being a stranger at home, because in exile it is required. Therefore, when in crowds, you long for yourself and for the solitude to write. Writing is nearness and alienation, exchanging past and present. The thirst of words for water glitters in the mirage of myth, the revolt of resemblance against the resembled, reality camouflaged
fulfilled, are moved by a call that overwhelms us without our realizing that it has yet to arrive, and by a renewed thirst next to the spring. She and not she; she is present and absent, it is as if her presence holds my absence within her, and her absence carries the presence of details. But she moves with so many names it is impossible to know if she is she, or one of the women my imagination and mercurial desires have invented. But it seems that she is an invention, because I never confuse
which you have described as “the oldest of beautiful cities, the most beautiful of old cities”? Acre is the vivid setting of your first loss and your first sea. It is all that it is, but the imagination crumbles from its walls like lime. You walk its dark alleys, free of imagination, as if treading on your self: here by the sea is a door leading to your first prison. This is the seashore where you contemplated the sunset, as well as the yellow corncobs in the hands of girls sashaying along and
ever since the day my heart got ahead of my tongue, has been a non-secret. I can love a thing but turn against it lest it enslave me. I only hate hatred, because it poisons one’s capacity to love simple things. I pity those whose hate is tied to their addiction to walking on shadows they keep mistaking for their own, imprisoning their lives in one sole invention: my mistakes! And you said to me: I have never disagreed with a woman except as to the definition of love. You said to me: What is