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Review: Midnight and Other Poems, by Mourid Barghouti

Raymond Humphreys, Roundyhouse 31, 2010

Never mind that I speak not a word of Arabic. Mourid Barghouti's poetry shines through the translation. There are arresting images on almost every page. Take this for example, from the title poem that occupies nearly two-thirds of the book: A wild love between a boy and girl springs up / like the clashing of two stags in the drizzle. Sometimes his expression is even more direct, as in one of the shorter poems, Three Cypresses. This ends:

Yesterday, in my sudden cheerfulness
I saw their immortality
Today, in my sudden sorrow,
I saw the axe.

Palestinians are perhaps the ultimate refugees. Their fate was sealed by the Sunday School view of the world (ignoring over 1800 years of history) espoused by the Balfour Declaration in November 1917. It's hardly a surprise when Midnight begins,

That's all you can do:
dump it in the dustbin, the whole calendar,
return its present to the past, as if the past,
as if the past twelve months
had departed with the final bell,...'

and ends 138 pages later with:

On the same nail,
from the same wall,
hang the new calendar;
that's all you can do.

Yet often politics are sometimes far away, as in Old Age, which memorably begins:

There are some inventions
that do not exist.
Old age is one of them.

Those who go 'there'
take childhood with them,...

This is a remarkable book; read it if you can.