Farewell Mahmoud (Darwish)
Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 28.10.2008:
By Amal Nashashibi
I know that when I feel an itch to write, I am usually very agitated. My restlessness started to build when I heard that Mahmoud Darwish had died.
I was in Amman, Jordan, when the sad news was announced … death in a hospital in Houston, Texas? Open heart surgery that Mahmoud knew would leave him paralysed or dead? No choices left to him? The US Consulate in Jerusalem delays a travel permit (visa) for a very crucial surgery? I came back home to Jerusalem the day after with a very heavy heart. Yet I could give the Poet’s death occasional thoughts on the way to the bridge, as the distractions on the journey were many and varied; from getting cold showers inside the Jordanian bus every time it rocked on the bumpy narrow road, to having to get off the bus as it ran out of steam and came to a complete stop in the middle of the bridge. To being yelled at by the Israeli soldiers to get back on the bus immediately, to sear in the tin-can bus, which lost its air conditioning in the August heat of the Jordan Valley.
Upon finally entering the “arrival” lounge on the Israeli-controlled side of the bridge, my niece, nephew, and I were directed to a line in front of new cubicles with a huge sign above them: “The Israeli Ministry of Interior Passport Control.” More of a decree than a sign – meant to indicate the confiscation of the homeland we were returning to. I could not be diverted from thinking of Mahmoud at that point … of his defiance of all Israeli attempts to steal his home, his identity, even his childhood’s brilliance. I started to miss his presence.
On the morning of the funeral, I was fidgety. I wanted to look my best as I was paying my last respects, and I was also thinking about wheat grains to shower his body with, hoping that the pigeons would pick them up and fly to him. I did not know that he had written about this. All I can say is that the idea possessed me all morning.
What happened in the morning was somehow subtly woven, as if by Mahmoud’s own hand. Time was running out; a friend offered to give me the grains that she keeps in the freezer for the pudding prepared on the feast of Saint Barbara. We both poured them quickly into small bags. No time to buy flowers, so we started to pick flowers hanging from peoples’ fences. We were rushing, and we hardly made it to the last part of the procession, which was fast making its way along the last brief stretch in Mahmoud’s long, winding journey.
Mahmoud’s coffin was mounted on a “military” vehicle. Why was he treated as a statesman? I passed out the grain bags to fellow mourners, and we started to throw the grains and the flowers. The mounted guards around the coffin got irritated by the grains and asked us if we would stop that and only throw the flowers. Why were they forced to come on this duty tour? Had the youth been given the chance to carry the body, they would have been more receptive to our gestures and emotions; we could have participated, and we could have had him a little longer to mourn.
I usually feel better after I pour my heart out on paper. Not this time. I am still agitated by the tragic fate and loss of a great Poet.
Amal Nashashibi is a resident of Occupied East Jerusalem.
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