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To my mother and her beloved Jerusalem

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Mahmoud Darwish’s poem “To My Mother” makes me weep at times. My earliest memory at the age of three, informed my understanding of this construct, subsequently orchestrating the assimilation of successive losses into my repertoire of being.

My mother stood wailing near the television screen as though intent on entering the box and rearranging the scenes. The defeat of the Arab armies of the Six-Day War and ensuing occupation of her beloved Jerusalem unraveled her like a forgotten sweater that had not been mothballed. My three-year-old self looked on, frightened and yet mesmerized by the histrionics of this strange woman who up until then had been my anchor.

Queasy at any perceived unruliness of emotions, my father urged her to calm down for his sake as much as mine. My mother’s tattered edges came together in a crescendo of uncharacteristic fury as she shot back a perfectly lucid proclamation: “Let her know the truth!”

I paced through the vacant rooms of our second-floor apartment; the bare walls and furniture that seemed sparse in relation to the size of the place gave it an air of aloofness. Slothfully, I inched towards the hard edge of my oversized bed and covered my head under the sheets. Freighted by my mother who had lost all composure and a faraway home, a precocious realization that the world was indeed a profoundly unsafe place slowly settled in.  Failed attempts at commanding my body to travel the bed’s full splendor prompted me to surrender with unbashful abandon to tears that were not mine alone or solely of time and place. Mahmoud Darwish’s poem, ‘To My Mother” speaks to me of a profound loss of home and of innocence.

I yearn for my mother’s bread

And my mother’s coffee

And my mother’s touch

As [my] childhood grows up within me

Day upon the bosom of day

And I love my life,

For if I died

I would feel shame for my mother’s tears


Take me, if I ever return,

As a veil for your lashes

And cover my bones with grass

Baptized in the purity of your heel

Tie me to you

With a lock of your hair

With a thread that trails

In the train of your dress

Perhaps, I would then become a god

A god, I would become

If I touched the depths of your heart

“To My Mother,” translated by Joseph Massad in “Liberating Songs: Palestine Put to Music,” Journal of Palestine Studies. Vol 32. No.3, 2002/03.


About Aida Qasim

Aida Qasim is a Palestinian American social worker.

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One Response

  1. Cazador
    June 8, 2017, 10:09 am

    It is so sad…

    It is so sad to read the facts, the real ones, and then enter into the life, what was total privacy, of once a young child, a three year old boy, remembering facts he couldn’t quite understand concerning the unexpected actions and reactions of his mother, put in a very beautiful poem, showing such great humanity, but unfortunately such a great loss.


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