Palestinian Reading List #4: “To Describe an Almond Blossom”


One of Mahmoud Darwish’s last poems, and a new favourite of mine. This translation, by Mohammad Shaheen, appears in Almond Blossoms and Beyond published by Interlink Books (2009).


To Describe an Almond Blossom


To describe an almond blossom no encyclopedia of flowers

In any help to me, no dictionary.

Words carry me off to snares of rhetoric

That would the sense, and praise the wound they’ve made.

Like a man telling a woman her own feeling.

How can the almond blossom shine in my own language,

when I am but an echo?

It is translucent, like liquid laughter that has sprouted

on boughs of shiny dew…

light as a white musical phrase…

weak as the glance of a thought that peeks out from our fingers

as in vain we write it…

dense as a line of verse not arranged alphabetically.

To describe an almond blossom, I need to make visits to the unconscious,

which guides me to affectionate names hanging on trees.

What is its name?

What is the name of this thing in the poetics of nothing?

I must break out of gravity and words,

in order to feel their lightness when they turn

into whispering ghosts, and I make them as they make me,

a white translucence.

Neither homeland nor exile are words,

but passions of whiteness in a

description of the almond blossom.

Neither snow or cotton.

One wonders how it rises above things and names.

If a writer were to compose a successful piece

describing an almond blossom, the fog would rise

from the hills, and people, all the people, would say:

This is it.

These are the words of our national anthem.