The following poem by Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008), the Palestinian Poet Laureate, whose work has been translated and read around the globe, including in Hebrew, recently became the subject of heated controversy when it was broadcast over Israel Army Radio's University on the Air programme.

Identity card

Mahmoud Darwish

Put it on record.

    I am an Arab

And the number of my card is fifty thousand

I have eight children

And the ninth is due after summer.

What's there to be angry about?

Put it on record.

    I am an Arab˜

Working with comrades of toil in a quarry.

I have eight children

For them I wrest the loaf of bread,

The clothes and exercise books

From the rocks

And beg for no alms at your door,

    Lower not myself at your doorstep.

    What's there to be angry about?

Put it on record.

    I am an Arab.

I am a name without a title,

Patient in a country where everything

Lives in a whirlpool of anger.

    My roots

    Took hold before the birth of time

    Before the burgeoning of the ages,

    Before cypress and olive trees,

    Before the proliferation of weeds.

My father is from the family of the plough

    Not from highborn nobles.

And my grandfather was a peasant

    Without line or genealogy.

My house is a watchman's hut

    Made of sticks and reeds.

Does my status satisfy you?

    I am a name without a surname.

Put it on record.

    I am an Arab.

Colour of hair: jet black.

Colour of eyes: brown.

My distinguishing features:

    On my head the `iqal cords over a keffiyeh

    Scratching him who touches it.

My address:

    I'm from a village, remote, forgotten,

    Its streets without name

    And all its men in the fields and quarry.

    What's there to be angry about?

Put it on record.

    I am an Arab.

You stole my forefathers' vineyards

    And land I used to till,

    I and all my children,

    And you left us and all my grandchildren

    Nothing but these rocks.

    Will your government be taking them too

    As is being said?


    Put it on record at the top of page one:

    I don't hate people,

    I trespass on no one's property.

And yet, if I were to become hungry

    I shall eat the flesh of my usurper.

    Beware, beware of my hunger

    And of my anger!

Translated by Denys Johnson-Davies

*Third World Resurgence No. 310/311, Jun/July 2016, p 56