Remembering Mahmoud Darwish

Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, who passed away on 9 August, recites one of his poems in the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 2008. (Mustafa Abu Dayeh/MaanImages)

Mahmoud Darwish, the iconic Palestinian poet passed away on 9 August in Houston, Texas at the age of 67 following unsuccessful heart bypass surgery. The Electronic Intifada editorial team share the sadness of the Palestinian and world literary communities and express their condolences to his family.

Over the next few days, EI will be publishing a number of tributes to Darwish. We begin with his own words, his 1964 poem “Identity Card,” from his first collection, Leaves of Olives. The verses express the spirit of resistance of Palestinians in the face exile and dispossession. Among his best known poems, it has lost none of its power a generation after it was first written.

“Identity card”

Write down!
I am an Arab
And my identity card number is fifty thousand
I have eight children
And the ninth will come after a summer
Will you be angry?

Write down!
I am an Arab
Employed with fellow workers at a quarry
I have eight children
I get them bread
Garments and books
from the rocks …
I do not supplicate charity at your doors
Nor do I belittle myself at the footsteps of your chamber
So will you be angry?

Write down!
I am an Arab
I have a name without a title
Patient in a country
Where people are enraged
My roots
Were entrenched before the birth of time
And before the opening of the eras
Before the pines, and the olive trees
And before the grass grew

My father … descends from the family of the plow
Not from a privileged class
And my grandfather … was a farmer
Neither well-bred, nor well-born!
Teaches me the pride of the sun
Before teaching me how to read
And my house is like a watchman’s hut
Made of branches and cane
Are you satisfied with my status?
I have a name without a title!

Write down!
I am an Arab
You have stolen the orchards of my ancestors
And the land which I cultivated
Along with my children
And you left nothing for us
Except for these rocks …
So will the State take them
As it has been said?!

Write down on the top of the first page:
I do not hate people
Nor do I encroach
But if I become hungry
The usurper’s flesh will be my food
Beware …
Beware …
Of my hunger
And my anger!