Monday, October 5, 2009

Revenge by Taha Muhammad Ali





In September 2006, I attended the Geraldine Dodge Poetry Festival in Waterloo Village, New Jersey. Waterloo Village is like Colonial Williamsburg, only on a much smaller scale. There is an old Church, Grist Mill, Saw Mill, remnants of the old Morris Canal. The festival usually takes place in the fall, when the air is clean and cool, and the colors of the leaves are striking. I am drawn to poetry in the autumn time of year - when the smell of dying leaves and woodsmoke wake you up and let you know - there is a change - in the season - and in you.

One of the poets presented at this last festival was Taha Muhammad Ali. With the help of an interpreter, he recited his poem "Revenge." For me it was the highlight of the festival. This poem is powerful - it speaks volumes. I would like to know if it moves you as it does me.



REVENGE by Taha Muhammad Ali


At times … I wish
I could meet in a duel
the man who killed my father
and razed our home,
expelling me
into
a narrow country.
And if he killed me,
I’d rest at last,
and if I were ready—
I would take my revenge!

*

But if it came to light,
when my rival appeared,
that he had a mother
waiting for him,
or a father who’d put
his right hand over
the heart’s place in his chest
whenever his son was late
even by just a quarter-hour
for a meeting they’d set—
then I would not kill him,
even if I could.

*

Likewise … I
would not murder him
if it were soon made clear
that he had a brother or sisters
who loved him and constantly longed to see him.
Or if he had a wife to greet him
and children who
couldn’t bear his absence
and whom his gifts would thrill.
Or if he had
friends or companions,
neighbors he knew
or allies from prison
or a hospital room,
or classmates from his school …
asking about him
and sending him regards.

*

But if he turned
out to be on his own—
cut off like a branch from a tree—
without a mother or father,
with neither a brother nor sister,
wifeless, without a child,
and without kin or neighbors or friends,
colleagues or companions,
then I’d add not a thing to his pain
within that aloneness—
not the torment of death,
and not the sorrow of passing away.
Instead I’d be content
to ignore him when I passed him by
on the street—as I
convinced myself
that paying him no attention
in itself was a kind of revenge.

Nazareth
April 15, 2006

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