The Dice Player لاعب النرد

The Dice Player – Mahmoud Darwish

Translation by Fayeq Oweis

Who am I to say to you what I am saying to you?
I was not a stone polished by water
and became a face
nor was I a cane punctured by the wind
and became a flute…

I am a dice player,
Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose
I am like you or slightly less…
I was born next to the well
and the three lonely trees, lonely like the nuns…
born without a celebration and without a midwife

I was named by chance
and belonged to a family by chance,
and inherited its features, traits, and illnesses:
First – an imbalance in the arteries,
and high blood pressure
Second – shyness in addressing the mother, the father,
and the grandmother – the tree
Third – hoping to cure from flu
with a cup of hot chamomile
Fourth – laziness in talking about the gazelle
and the lark
Fifth – boredom of winter nights
Sixth – a gross failure in singing …

I played no role in who I became
It was by chance that I became a male …
and by chance that I saw a pale moon
like a lemon, flirting with sleepless girls
I did not strive to find
a mole in the most secret places of my body!
I could have not existed
My father could have not
married my mother by chance
Or I could have been like my sister
who screamed then died
and did not realize
that she was born for only one hour
and did not know her mother…
Or: like the eggs of the pigeons smashed
before the chicks saw the lights
It was by chance that I became a survivor
in a bus accident
Where my school trip was delayed
because I forgot existence and its conditions
when I was reading a love story the night before,
I impersonated the role of the author,
and the role of the beloved – the victim
so I became the martyr of love in the novel
and the survivor in the road accident
I played no role in kidding with the sea, but I was
a reckless boy,
a fan of hanging around the attractiveness of water
calling me: Come to me!
nor did I play any role in surviving the sea
I was rescued by a human gull
who saw the waves pulling me
and paralyzing my hands
I could have not been infected
by the fairies of the ancient hanging poetry
If the house gate was northerly not overlooking the sea
If the army patrol did not see the village fire
baking the night
Had the fifteen martyrs
re-built the barricades,
Had that field not fallen,
I could have become an olive tree
or a geography teacher
or an expert of the kingdom of ants
or a guardian of echo!

Who am I to say to you
what I am saying to you
at the door of the church
and I am but a throw of a dice
between a predator and a prey
I earned more awareness
not to be happy with my moonlit night
but to witness the massacre
I survived by chance: I was smaller than a military target
and bigger than a bee wandering among the flowers of the fence
I feared for my siblings and my father
I feared for a time made of glass
I feared for my cat and rabbit and for a magical moon,
above the high minaret of the mosque
I feared for the grapes of our vines
that suspend like the breasts of our dog …
Fear kept up with me and I continued with it
barefooted, forgetting my little memories of what I wanted
from tomorrow – there is no time for tomorrow –
I walk / haste / run / go up / go down /
I scream / bark / howl / call / wail /
I go faster / slower / fall down / slow down / dry /
I walk / fly / see / do not see / stumble /
I become yellow / green / blue / I split / break into tears /
I get thirsty / tired / hungry / I fall down / get up / run / forget /
I see / do not see / remember / hear / comprehend /
I rave / hallucinate / mumble / scream / I can not /
I groan / become insane / go astray /
I become less / more / fall down / go up / and drop /
I bleed /and I lose consciousness /

I am fortunate that the wolves disappeared from there
by chance, or escaped from the army
I played no role in my life,
except, when it taught me its hymns,
I said: is there any more?
and I lit its lamp then tried to amend it…
I could have not been a swallow
had the wind wished me that,
and the wind is the luck of the traveler …
I traveled North, East, and West
but the South was far and rebellious for me
because the South is my country
So I became a swallow metaphor,
flying over my own debris
autumns and springs ..
Baptizing my feathers with the clouds of the lake
then extending my greetings
to the Nasserite who does not die
for within him is the breath of God
God is the luck of the Prophet…
I am fortunate that I am a divinity neighbor …
It is my misfortune that the cross
is the eternal ladder to our tomorrow!

Who am I to say to you
What I am saying to you,
Who am I?
I could have not been inspired
Inspiration is the luck of the lonely soles
The poem is a throw of a dice
on a board of darkness
that may or may not shine
and the words fall
like feathers on the sand
I play no role in the poem
I only obey its rhythm:
the movements of sensations, one modifies the other
intuition that brings a meaning
unconsciousness in the echo of the words
an image of myself
which has transferred from “my own self” to another my
relying on myself
and my longing for the spring
I play no role in the poem,
unless the inspiration stops
Inspiration is the luck of the skill, should it strive
I could have not fallen in love with the girl
who asked me: What time it is now?
Had I not been on my way to the movies …
She could have not been a heart stealer as she was,
or a dark ambiguous desire …
This is how words are born.
I train my heart to love so it can have room for roses and thorns …
My vocabularies are mystical.
My desires are sensible

I am not who I am now
unless these two meet:
I, and my feminine I
O Love! What are you? How much are you what you are,
and what you are not.
O Love! Blow on us thunderstorms
to become what you love for us
a divine solutions to the physical.
And flow into an estuary of two sides.
You – visible or invisible –
have no form
We love you when we love by chance
You are the luck of the poor
It is my misfortune that I repeatedly survived
the dying of love
and I am fortunate that I am still fragile
to enter into the experiment again!
The expert lover says in his secret:
Love is our sincere lie
and when his lover hears that,
she says: love comes and goes
as lightning and thunderstorms
To life I say: slow down, wait for me
until the drunkenness dries from my glass …
The are communal roses in the garden,
and air can not escape the rose
Wait for me so the Nightingales do not escape
and I do not make a mistake in the rhythm
In the square, the minstrels tighten the strings of their instruments,
for the farewell song.
Slow down! Be brief so the song will not last long, and
the cadence does not interrupt the preludes,
which is bilateral and has a unilateral finale:
Long live life!
Take your time!
Hold me, so the wind will not scatter me around
Even riding the wind,
I can not escape the alphabets
If I did not stand on a mountain,
I would have been happy with an eagle hermitage: no light is higher!
But such glory, crowned with an infinite blue gold
is hard to visit:
The lonely there remains lonely,
and he can not disembark on his feet
The eagle can not walk nor can the human fly
O what a summit that looks like an abyss
O You, high mountain solitude!
I have no role in what I became
or will become…
It is luck. Luck has no name
We might call it the blacksmith of our fates
call it the sky mail carrier
call it the carpenter of the newborn’s crib and the coffin of the deceased
or call it the custodian of gods in legends
in which we wrote the texts for them
and hid behind the Olympic …
The hungry pottery vendors believed them
but the satiated gold masters did not believe
It is the misfortune of the author
that fantasy is reality on theatre floors
Behind the scenes matter differs
The question is not: When?
but: Why? How? and Who?

Who am I to say to you
what I am saying to you?
I could have not existed
and the caravan could have fallen
in an ambush, and the family could have lost a son
The one who is writing this poem
character by character, bleeding and bleeding
on this sofa with black blood,
not a crow ink or its voice,
but the whole night squeezed
drop by drop,in the hands of luck and talent
Poetry could have earned more if
he was not, no one else, a Hoopoe
on the brink of an abyss
Perhaps, he said: If I was someone else,
I would become me, once again
This is how I bluff: Narcissus is not beautiful
as he thought.
His makers entangled him with a mirror.
He prolonged his meditation
in the air distilled with water…
Had he been able to see others,
he would have loved a girl gazing at him,
oblivious the reindeers running between the lilies and the daisies …
Had he been a bit more clever,
he would have broken his mirror
and saw how much he was the others…
Had he been free, he would have not become a legend…
Mirage is the traveler’s book in the desert …
Without it, without the mirage, he would not continue walking
in search for water.
He says – this is a cloud –
and carries a jug of hope in one hand,
and with the other hand on his waist.
Beating on the sand to collect the clouds in a hole.
The mirage calls on him,
seduces him, deceives him, and lifts him up:
Read if you can!
Write if you can!
He reads: water, water, and water
He writes a line on the sand: if it was not for the mirage,
I would have not been alive until now
It is fortunate for the traveler that hope is
the twin of despair, or his improvised poetry
When the sky appears grey
and I see a rose suddenly grew
from the cracks of a wall,
I do not say: the sky is grey
but contemplate the rose
and say to it: What a beautiful day!
For two of my friends I say at the entrance of night:
If it had to be a dream, let it be like us … simple
Like: dining together after two days,
the three of us
celebrating the truthfulness of prophecy of our dream,
that the three of us did not lose one for two days
Let us celebrate the Sonata of the moon
and the tolerance of death, that when it saw us happy together,
it re-considered!
I do not say: life out there is real,
with fantastic places
rather I say: here life is possible
By chance, the land became a holy land
Not because its lakes, hills, and trees
are duplicates of a higher paradise
but because a prophet walked there
prayed on a rock, and it wept
and the hill fell unconscious from the fear of God
By chance, a slope of a field in a country
became a museum of dust …
Because thousands of soldiers died there
from the two sides, in defense of the two leaders
who said: Go! waiting for the spoils of war
in their silk tents on the two sides…
Soldiers die repeatedly not knowing,
until now, who was victorious!
By chance, some narrators lived and said:
If others were victorious upon others,
our humankind history would have had other titles
I love you green. O green land.
An apple ripples in light and water, Green,
Your night is Green,
your dawn is green.
Plant me gently –
as gentle as a mother’s hand – in a handful of air.
I am a seed of your green seeds…
That poem does not have one poet
It could have not been made lyrical…

Who am I to say to you
what I am saying to you?
I could have not been who I am
I could have not been here
The plane could have crashed
that morning with me on board
I am lucky that I am a morning sleeper
and was late for the plane
I could have not seen Damascus or Cairo
or the Louver and the magical cities
Had I been a slow walker, the rifle could have cut off my shadow
from the sleepless cedar
Had I been a fast walker,
I could have been hit by shrapnel
and became a passing notion
Had I been an excessive dreamer,
I could have lost my memory
I am fortunate that I sleep alone
and can listen to my body
and believe in my talent in discovering pain
and call on the doctor, ten minutes before death,
ten minutes is enough to live by chance
and disappoint the nothingness
Who am I to disappoint nothingness?
Who am I, who am I?