Featured Poem

A State of Siege (extract)

In a land preparing for its dawn,
in a while
the planets will sleep in the language of poetry.

In a while
we will bid this hard road farewell,
and ask: Where shall we begin?

In a while
we will warn the young mountain daffodils
their beauty will be eclipsed when our young women pass by.


I raise a glass
to those who share my vision
of a butterfly’s joyful iridescence
in this interminable tunnel of night.


I raise a glass
to the one who shares a glass with me
in the pitch black of this night,
a night so thick we’re both in the dark.
I raise a glass to my ghost.


Peace for the traveller on the other side
is to hear a traveller talking to himself.

Peace is the sound of a dove in flight
heard by two strangers standing together.


Peace is the longing of two enemies
to be left to themselves till they die of boredom.

Peace is two lovers
swimming in moonlight.


Peace is the apology of the strong
to the weak,
agreeing strength lies in vision.

Peace is the disarming of arms
before beauty —
iron turns to rust when left out in the dew.


Peace means a full and honest confession
of what was done to the ghost of the murdered.

Peace means returning to dig up the garden
to plan all the crops we will plant.


Peace is the anguish
in the music of Andalusia
weeping from the heart of a guitar.


Peace is an elegy said over a young man
whose heart’s been torn open
by neither bullet nor bomb,
but the beauty-spot of his beloved.


Peace sings of life —here, in the midst of life,
wind running free through fields ripe with wheat.

Ramallah, 2002.

» Comment on this translation 1 comment(s)

View film icon 
» View video
About the translation:
Mahmoud Darwish
Sabry Hafez, Sarah Maguire
Original language:
Series 3 No. 1 - Introductions

About the author

Mahmoud Darwish

Original poet

Mahmoud Darwish

Mahmoud Darwish, the great Palestinian poet, passed away on Saturday 9 August 2008, following complications after major heart...

» Read more


Sabry Hafez

Sabry Hafez is Professor of Modern Arabic and Comparative Literature at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Born and e...

» Read more
Sarah Maguire


Sarah Maguire

Sarah Maguire has published four highly-acclaimed collections of poetry, Spilt Milk (Secker; 1991; reprinted PBS; 2007), The I...

» Read more


mohammad hussein

12th May 2012

Thank you Sarah and Sabri. I am a translator too, translating Jewish Thought from English and Hebrew into Arabic. The question is, can translation defeat weapon of hatred and denying others? Salam


Browse poems

By original language »

By issue of MPT »

Go Digital

Subscribe to the digital edition of MPT for access to all back issues and to the Exactly app.» View free trial issue

Back to top
Supported by Arts Council England

Copyright © Modern Poetry in Translation and contributors
Website design ashbydesign
Developed by Code Frontiers
Powered by Storemill