Poetry from Steve Bloom


Mahmoud Darwish Memorial
New York City


On Wednesday evening, September 24, 2008, I was privileged to say a few words at the Alwan Center for the Arts on Beaver Street in Manhattan, at a memorial tribute to the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish who died the previous August. I explained that before hearing of his death I was only slightly aware of the man and his poetry, but have come to know both of them much better since. I read two poems, one by Darwish and one by me, composed for the occasion.  I reproduce both of them for you below.


Eight years later I heard Zigi Lowenberg recite a poem dedicated to Darwish at a reading sponsored by the National Writers' Union in New York City and suggested that we add hers to this page as well. 




By Mahmoud Darwish:




 I come from there and I have memories.

 Born as mortals are, I have a mother

 and a house with many windows.

 I have brothers, friends,

 and a prison cell with a cold window.

 Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls.

 I have my own view,

 and an extra blade of grass.

 Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,

 and the bounty of birds,

 and the immortal olive tree.

 I walked this land long before swords

 turned man into prey


 * * * * *


 I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother

 when the sky weeps for her mother.

 And I weep to make myself known

 to a returning cloud.

 To break the rules, I have learned all the words

 needed for a trial by blood.

 I learned all the words and broke them up

 to make a single word: Homeland.....



by Steve Bloom:




 Consider all the poems I will never know,

 sunrises I cannot see,

 songs no one has ever sung to me,

 all those who walk past

 on the sidewalk

 without a name-tag pinned

 close to their hearts.


 Yet each has a story to tell

 if only we would learn how to listen.

 * * * * *

 One obituary described him as a poet

 who was "known for political works,

 but proudest of his personal verses."


 It is hard for me to determine

 whether the verse I recite for you now is political

 or personal.

 As a fellow poet I'm inclined to believe

 that Mahmoud might

 have shared this conundrum.


 * * * * *

 I did not know Mahmoud Darwish

 before he died.

 Still, he helps me learn how to listen:

 to the waves snatched by seagulls,

 or to random beings who sometimes

 find themselves with an extra blade of grass—

 sharing words that will sing to us



 because his was a personal story.

 And his was a political story.

 And his story can be called

 by the names: "Palestine,"

 and "Homeland"—

 which will always remain

 close to our hearts.


 * * * * *


 I did not know Mahmoud Darwish

 before he died.

 And yet I have a chance,

 to know him now, after

 the sunset, decide

 to weep for each individual

 who remains unrecognized

 by a returning cloud and,

 in this way,

 tell Mahmoud "hello" today,

 rather than "Goodbye."




By Zigi Lowenberg:


for Mahmoud Darwish, September 2016

they kicked over my shiva stool
forcing me to stand
fifteen years and counting

          Freefalling from fiery towers,
          Fellow workers holding hands—

they hijacked my mourning, muffling my balladeer
into unwelcome army sacs, they stuffed my bitter tears
they snatched sheets off my mirrors, snuffing my lament
they shaved and dressed me with recitations
in uniform, “boots on the ground” I went

They told me Mother Goose is gone—
Memorizing anthems
Their shrapnel stole my Innocence
What’s left’s but a Phantom
Hypnotized with video games
Force-fed Reality
Glossy blow-ups locked and loaded
Seduction by TV—

Broker Terror, highest bidder
Sworn oaths to Deception
Pledging my allegiance to this
Empire of Exception …

they bulldozed my homes, demolishing sacred trees of peace
they privatized pristine waters, spilling sludge into my seas
they scourged my rainforest, watched my mountaintops crumple
they exiled gatherers of ancestral olives, and bombed my holy temple

they kicked over my shiva stool
forcing me to stand
fifteen years and counting,
counting with exhaustion
          counting the worldly Dead—