A Z FOREMAN is a literary translator, poet and language teacher currently working on a doctorate in Near Eastern Languages at the Ohio State University. He received his B.A. in Linguistics from the University of Chicago, and his M.A. in Arabic Language from the University of Maryland. His translations from Arabic, Chinese, Old Irish, Italian, Russian, Old English, Ukrainian, Yiddish and Welsh have appeared in sundry anthologies, journals and a BBC radio broadcast. He divides his time between the bedroom, the bathroom and the kitchen. If you have a dog, he would very much like to pet it.

Dice From There: A Pair for Mahmoud Darwish

            From There

It was Mahmoud, of all who sing and die,

Born in a nation’s catastrophic dawn,

Who made a country look him in the eye.

He made me listen to him in Silwan

That day. I stank of grief and sweat and fear

Watching the men break down an old man’s door

And son. I vomited. He tugged my ear

To tell me he had lived through this but more.

Through gas-grenades and prison and despair,

A people clutched at heart, to a death of one,

Under the sign of sacred dignity

He knew his Exodus. He came from there

To forge himself to song between the gun

And Rita. Anguish and humanity.

            Who am I to say

Could he have been my friend, whose flowers weighed

Down on the gunsight’s scales? I think. We both

Learned home in strangeness. Both our girlfriends made

Love in a language we refused to loathe.

Seeing him weary of the slow gun-play

Of sloganing, outgrow the lollipop

Of rhetoric and learn that where words stop

Could carry more than what we have to say,

I think how his verse plays in later years

At dice with histories he cannot master,

The struggle for a thing he vaguely fears,

Chased by the angry twilight of disaster

Across the longitudes from Galilee

To Texas. Anguish and humanity.

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