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Darwish excerpt from Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone?

The train rushed past
It passed me by, and I
am like a station. I don’t know
whether I’m seeing people off or greeting them:
Welcome, on my platforms
and a rhyme
for another poet who comes and waits

The train rushed past
It passed me by, and I
am still waiting

Mahmoud Darwish (1941 – 2008)
trans. by Jeffrey Sacks
from Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone?

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From Darwish’s Posthumous Collection

Standing Before the Ruins of Al-Birweh
by Mahmoud Darwish
tran. by Sinan Antoon 

Like birds, I tread lightly on the earth’s skin
so as not to wake the dead
I shut the door to my emotions to become my other
I don’t feel that I am a stone sighing
as it longs for a cloud
Thus I tread as if I am a tourist
and a correspondent for a foreign newspaper
Of this place I choose the wind
I choose absence to describe it
Absence sat, neutral, around me
The crow saw it
Halt, my two companions!
Let us experience this place our own way:
Here, a sky fell on a stone and bled it
so that anemones would bloom in the spring
(Where is my song now?)
Here, the gazelle broke the glass of my window
so that I would follow it
(So where is my song now?)
Here, the magical morning butterflies carried the path to my school
(So where is my song now?)
Here I saddled a horse to fly to my stars
(So where is my song now?)
I say to my two companions:
Stop so that I may weigh the place
and its emptiness with Jahili odes
full of horses and departure
For every rhyme we will pitch a tent
For every home to be stormed by the wind,
there is a rhyme
But I am the son of my first tale
My milk is warm in my mother’s breast
The bed is swung by two tiny birds
My father is building my tomorrow with his two hands
I didn’t grow up and so did not go to exile
The tourist says: Wait for the dove to finish its cooing!
I say: It knows me and I know it, but the letter has not arrived
The journalist interrupts my secret song:
Do you see that dairy factory behind that strong pine tree?
I say: No, I only see the gazelle at the window
He says: What about the modern roads on the rubble of houses?
I say: No, I don’t see them
I only see the garden under them
and I see the cobweb
He says: Dry your two tears with a handful of fresh grass
I say: That is my other crying over my past
The tourist says: The visit is over
I haven’t found anything to photograph except a ghost
I say: I see absence with all its instruments
I touch it and hear it. It lifts me high
I see the ends of the distant skies
Whenever I die I notice
I am born again and I return
from absence to absence

Translated by Sinan Antoon, from Darwish’s posthumous collection, La Uridu Li-Hadhihi al-Qasidati an Tantahi (I Don’t Want This Poem to End) (Beirut: Riyad al-Rayyis, 2009). 


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In Memoriam of Mahmoud Darwish

Today is the 3rd anniversary of the death of Mahmoud Darwish. For the occasion:

A Traveler
by Mahmoud Darwish
trans. by Sinan Antoon 

This road takes me; a horse guiding a horseman
A traveler like me cannot look back
I have walked far enough to know
where autumn beginsThere, behind the river,
the last pomegranates ripen
in an additional summer
and a beauty mark grows
in the seed of the apple
The road and I will sleep like partners
behind the river, beneath our shadows
Then rise at dawn and carry each other
I will ask it: Why so fast?
Slow down, O horse saddled with seasons!
No matter how few our dreams
we will cross the desert and valleys
to reach the end at the beginning
The beginning is behind us
Before us clouds bringing winter’s tidings
I have walked far enough to know
where winter starts:
There, over the hill
A gazelle looks for a fawn under the clouds
A hunter points his rifle
I will howl like a wolf
so the white gazelle can flee the fire
and the hunter is scared
The road and I will sleep
There, next to a cave, over the hill
Then rise at dawn and carry each other
Asking: What next? Where are you taking me?
I see the fog, but I don’t see the road
nor does it see me
Have I arrived? 
Or have I been separated from the road?
I asked myself, then said:
Now, from this distance,
a traveler like me
can look back!

Translated from the Arabic by Sinan Antoon. From Darwish’s posthumous collection, La Uridu Li-Hadhi ‘l-Qasidati An Tantahi (I Don’t Want this Poem to End)(Beirut: Riyad El-Rayyes Books, 2009)


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A Celebration of Cortázar and Observatories @ Vassar

Please join Archipelago Books on Friday, August 12, for a starry celebration of Julio Cortázar’s From the Observatory:

Friday, August 12
6:30 p.m.
Vassar College Observatory
124 Raymond Avenue
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604 

Reception to be followed by a reading and panel discussion with translator Anne McLean, Vassar English professor and Cortázar scholar Mihai Grunfeld, and Vassar astronomy professor Fred Chromey, who will speak about the history of observatories; as well as a special private tour of the Vassar College observatory for interested participants

Transportation/directions from the New York Metro Area:
The Metro-North Hudson line runs express trains from Grand Central Station to Poughkeepsie, including a 4:45 departure to arrive at 6:27.
Poughkeepsie is also served by Amtrak, with departures from New York Penn Station.
Taxi service is available from the train station  (about 3 miles) to the Vassar campus.
Signs will be posted at the College entrance to guide you to the observatory.