State of Mind / Hussein Al-Barghouti

Hussein Al-Barghouti was a Palestinian poet, who graduated from the University of Washington in 1992 with a PhD in Comparative literature. After his return to Palestine in the same year and until his premature death, Al-Barghouti was an influential poet, professor, critic, playwright, scholar and a dedicated patron of Palestinian culture. The literary legacy that Al-Barghouti left behind includes more than sixteen books of poetry, essays, criticism, folklore, memoires, prose and novel, most notably the posthumous memoires The Blue Light (2004) and I Will Be Among the Almond Tree (2004). The following poem captures some of the themes and sensibilities that characterize these memoirs, particularly the poetics of memory and place and the deep attachment to nature in the Palestinian landscape that fueled Al-Barghouti’s keen interest in existentialism.]

State of Mind

I live and my heart goes out to no one.

I feel no sadness

and harm no roses.

Like black grease on a wheel

in the belly of a machine,

all inside me mechanical.

Birds made of rubber in a cage of colored sand

and my face a fountain in winter– flowing

New coldness in the air. I lean

where the “powers” throw me: towards memories

from old cities, or a shop full of words that look like a lit-up bar

where jazz is playing and the customers sleep at the tables.

I pass by, in me the bitterness of a shadow

and my eyes are boredom and metal.

From Jadaliyya