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Taher Bekri: Epic of the Thyme of Palestine

[Taker Bekri. Image from Author] [Taker Bekri. Image from Author]


Epic of the Thyme of Palestine

By Taher Bekri

In memory of Mahmoud Darwish

Translated by Marilyn Hacker


I perfumed the hills and plains

Nourished by brilliant light

Accompanied wanderers’ steps

Through the earth’s ancestral rites

All those domes, bell-towers, temples

Offered up for a thousand prayers


That sudden rain which mingled

My scent with the steadfast stones

Alert for gaping rifts

The rocks grasp leaves that I dropped

In the dusk of centuries stretching

Themselves out in history’s pit


Neighbor sea, I loved your murmur

That consoled my trembling, joined

By flutes, rocked by solar olive trees

They came by night with reptilian tanks

Razored treads sheared my sprigs

That held a dream built like a stream


I still see you, children scorched by phosphorus

Ashes blackened by clouds bleached

Of blood and cowardly dust

Beneath skies gashed by cast lead

Hospitals bled from a hundred shells

Schools that are like graveyards


And I don’t forget the path the wind took

To extinguish your genie-less lamps

Who could claim that a rifle was hidden

In flour, or rockets in kitchens

When beds were ripped open on sleeping

Bodies, thresholds smirched with shame


How not to see you, batsIn the blindness of the night

Master boots that march on my summers

Scoured of secular lemon-trees

How not to know you, crows

In the brainless drones overhead


Winter covered by wailing sirens

Houses like graves without stones

Among the dark cries, among ruins

I consoled the stars brusquely awakened

Terrified by your gunpowder trails

My new leaves your arsonists’ martyr


I tell you this, thyme is to flavor

Olive-oil bread kneaded and baked

On my flames, not to light your fires

Neither rosemary, friend of my cypresses

Nor waters wrenched from their source

Will pardon your memory’s gaps


I tell you this, thyme is for proud

Old roads, it is not for vultures

Thyme is for birds at rest

Freed from their need and their fear

Not to starve out trees and nests

Not to punish mothers and cradles


I defy you, hyenas in helmets

Thyme, even hemmed in by the Wall

Will burst through sea, sky and earth

So many armies for one herb

Still cannot prevent my bestowing

My fragrance on open-armed people 


January 27 2009 

[Translated from the French by Marilyn Hacker. Taher Bekri was born in Tunisia in 1951. He writes poetry in Arabic and French. He has lived in Paris since 1976 and has published over twnty books.]      

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