Saturday, November 10, 2007

"Revenge" by Taha Muhammad Ali

I had the incredible pleasure of seeing Taha Muhammad Ali read at the University of Michigan on Nov. 8, 2007. The second to the last poem he read, "Revenge," was one of the most moving and powerful poems I've ever heard. For those who weren't at the reading or who would like to relive the experience, I found a video of Taha Muhammad Ali and Peter Cole reading at the 11th Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival last year. The text of the poem, also available on that page, is below.

translated by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, and Gabriel Levin

At times ... I wish
I could meet in a duel
the man who killed my father
and razed our home,
expelling me
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.

April 15, 2006


and_dry_therain said...

Hey D'Anne,

It's Carly. Fate has it that I also have a poetry blog (hooray?).

Anyway, I've been trying to find the text for this poem since the reading on Thursday, so thank you so much for digging this up!

Also, I've never been touched by a monkey... how does it feel?

sensitivepoet said...

I have a blog too. Yey.