Poem of the Week, from Eleven Stars Over Andalusia

From Eleven Stars Over Andalusia
by Mahmoud Darwish, translated by Agha Shahid Ali with Ahmad Dallal

“10. I want from love only the beginning”

I want from love only the beginning. Doves patch,
over the squares of my Granada, this day’s shirt.
There is wine in our clay jars for the feast after us.
In the songs there are windows: enough for blossoms to explode.

I leave jasmine in the vase; I leave my young heart
in my mother’s cupboard; I leave my dream, laughing, in water;
I leave the dawn in the honey of the figs; I leave my day and my yesterday
in the passage to the square of the Orange where doves fly.

Did I really descend to your feet so speech could rise,
a white moon in the milk of your nights . . . pound the air
so I could see the Street of the Flute blue . . . pound the evening
so I could see how this marble between us suffers?

The windows are empty of the orchards of your shawl. In another time
I knew so much about you. I picked gardenias
from your ten fingers. In another time there were pearls for me
around your neck, and a name on a ring whose gem was darkness, shining.

I want from love only the beginning. Doves flew
in the last sky, they flew and flew in that sky.
There is still wine, after us, in the barrels and jars.
A little land will suffice for us to meet, a little land will be enough for peace.


Mahmoud Darwish was a Palestinian poet who passed away in 2008. For more information about him and his work, poets.org has a biography and a few poems in translation. If you speak arabic, his own website looks great (though I am unable to read anything on it). Darwish wrote exclusively (as far as I can tell) in arabic, so if you want to read him in English it has to be via translation.

Agha Shahid Ali was an amazing poet in his own right who passed away in 2001. He is probably best known for introducing (or, well, perfecting? maybe?) the ghazal form in English, but his work is more interesting than just that. His poems blend ethnic backgrounds in a beautiful mixture of free verse and form. I just finished reading Rooms Are Never Finished, Ali’s collection that deals with the death of his mother, and I highly recommend it. “Lennox Hill” is especially awesome. More information about Ali is available through the Poetry Foundation or through poets.org .

2 thoughts on “Poem of the Week, from Eleven Stars Over Andalusia

  1. I kind of hate the word sensual, but this poem is so sensual! I love descriptive poems that evoke the sights and smells and tastes of a place. This makes me feel a little sad, but hopeful at the same time.

  2. Pingback: On World Poetry Day: A Kaleidoscope of 21 Arabic Poems in Translation – Arabic Literature (in English)

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