i read recently, a short piece of prose by the Palestinian poet Ghassan Zactan, about his mother’s memories of a Jewish girl she liked, which led him to talk about his friend & fellow Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish. Zactan, explains that just as his mother after years of occupation could still allow the memory to be un-corrupted by all the terrible things that had happened to her, that she could still humanize the enemy, so in his poetry Darwish had continually given the enemy “character traits”, which humanized them.
The article made me rethink what an enemy is. The original title for this poem was Enemies. This is not just a poem about Palestine, it just so happens a Palestinian poet helped me see differently. This poem applies to every marginalized people who are shadowed & in those shadows dehumanized into a dangerous mythology.It sickens me that even after all that has happened in the history of man, we are still led to these conclusions about entire peoples, because of how susceptible we remain to ignorance & rhetoric.
First of all, if you want to overcome it,
you’d best give it a name; transparency
gets under the skin with the word a mother feeds
& loves, a friend puts at the start of sentences.
Once unraveled from the itchy thicket of it,
the name requires a body, something to cast shadows;
eyes that couple the sun, hair that gathers dew;
breath visible on January afternoons.
Mahmoud Darwish made clarity with enemies,
wrote their angle in space, the strait of time
& rendered forms from monstrous figurines
born of a thousand terrors, hidden in sounds.
The failure to meet such silence head on,
is to distend the story-making spleen of men.
i never had an enemy
— what do i know of them?