Lorna Dee Cervantes: For Mahmoud Darwish






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A fifth generation Californian of Mexican and Native American (Chumash) heritage, Lorna Dee Cervantes was born on August 6, 1954, in San Francisco, and raised in San Jose.

She is the author of From the Cables of Genocide: Poems on Love and Hunger (Arte Público Press, 1991) and Emplumada (1981), which won an American Book Award.

She is also co-editor of Red Dirt, a cross-cultural poetry journal, and her work has been included in many anthologies including Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry (eds. Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Jennifer Gillan, 1994), No More Masks! An Anthology of Twentieth-Century Women Poets (ed. Florence Howe, 1993), and After Aztlan: Latino Poets of the Nineties (ed. Ray González, 1992).

In 1995 she received a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award.



for Mahmoud Darwish

“We travel like other people, but we return to nowhere.../ .../ We have a country of words. Speak. Speak so we may know the end of this travel.”  (from We Travel like Other People, the lines quoted are from his poem “Psalm 2”)

a country you carry in your pocket
airport to airport, a country
that exists for you in a remembered
fragrance, an expired stamp, now the seal
of blood embossed upon someone's
sunstruck pavement. Who owns
this property? Who owns the right
to no way out but a busted window
a hundred flights up? Who owns the key
to Heaven's Gate? Did it open?

I open the newspaper, my computer,
an account, and need to account for all
the terror in the world, in crossing
the street with my child this morning,
our Indian heads and Palestinian shrouds.
With what do we pay? For what
attention? I want to draw its shape
“scattered in files and surprises....
flying on shrapnel and bird's wings....
trapped between the dagger and the wind.
I want to draw your shape
to find my shape in yours....”

And what
if the source of death
is not the dagger
or the lie?
But both. Buried deep
in the human rubble.
Closer to God
than thee.

©2001, Lorna Dee Cervantes