And so it has taken me all of sixty years to understand

Taha Muhammad Ali

Neither music,
fame, nor wealth,
not even poetry itself,
could provide consolation
for life’s brevity,
or the fact that King Lear
is a mere eighty pages long and comes to an end
and for the thought that one might suffer greatly
on account of a rebellious child…

And so
it has taken me
all of sixty years
to understand
that water is the finest drink,
and bread the most delicious food,
and that art is worthless
unless it plants
a measure of splendor in people’s hearts.

After we die,
and the weary heart
has lowered its final eyelid
on all that we’ve done,
and on all that we longed for,
on all that we’ve dreamt of,
all we’ve desired
or felt,
hate will be
the first thing
to putrefy
within us.

–Taha Muhammad Ali, Excerpt from the poem “Twigs in “So What, New and Selected Poems


About the Author:

Taha Muhammad Ali, (1931-2011), was a leading Arab poet.  He was born in Galilee and fled with his family to Lebanon after their village came under heavy bombardment during the 1948 war. In the 1950s and 1960s, he sold souvenirs during the day to Christian pilgrims and self-studied poetry at night. His formal education ended after fourth grade. Despite his spare output and lack of formal education, Ali has become one of the most widely admired Palestinian poets.  Ali’s vivid free verse conveys the moody resilience of his personality in treatments of the national grief of occupation, exile and the Palestinian Arabs’ “endless migration.” Often informed by symbols and structures from Arab tradition, Ali’s ironies stand alongside easily grasped, even universal, versions of lament: “We did not know/ at the moment of parting/ that it was a moment of parting.” Ali transmits humor, his way with a tale and his deep roots in “fatigue, hunger, vagrancy,/ debts and addiction to ruin.” Composed between the early 1970s and now, Ali’s poems are timely and affecting; his 1984 masterpiece, “The Falcon,” portrays the poet as a migratory bird indebted less to his companions than to his own “sadness… so much greater than I am.” A moving, richly poetic story, in which all the deprivations of Ali’s verse coalesce in a child’s desire for a pair of shoes, closes the collection.  (Source: Amazon)


Sources:


Comments

  1. this is absolutely beautiful. he has an understanding of life and death and all in between, that many never will even begin to realize. thank you for this.

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  2. Amazing…I’m reblogging it if you don’t mind.

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  3. Wow. Very moving.

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  4. Reblogged this on Waiting for the Karma Truck and commented:
    This poem hit me viscerally…from the title through the last line. We learn so much, so late. Though arguably if we never learn, that would be the worst outcome of all.

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  5. Beautiful poem!

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  6. I have heard of Ali,mbut have never read any of his works. I love this passage:

    “And so
    it has taken me
    all of sixty years
    to understand
    that water is the finest drink,
    and bread the most delicious food,
    and that art is worthless
    unless it plants
    a measure of splendor in people’s hearts.”

    Thx for the introduction, pal!

    Like

  7. Lori, that’s the exact passage that jumped off the page and I have read it a dozen times. I just started a book, given to me by my Rabbi entitled “From Age-ing to Sage-ing A Profound New Vision of Growing Older”, and the authors first line begins “I was approaching my 60th birthday and…” It must be the age, certainly not the number (tho’ I admit I hit 60 the minute my 59th birthday passed and I’m using the year to get used to the fit). David, we haven’t met, but anytime Mimi reblogs one of your posts it always makes me think and reflect. This one is a direct hit. When I was in the classroom one day a year we’d have the kids carry their favorite poem in their pocket thereby making it “Poetry in a Pocket Day”. I think I am going to reprint this one and carry it in, what my daughter fondly calls, my “Jo-Mama” bag. What an inspirational series of words to accompany me in my travels. Thank you, David. Nice to make your acquaintance.

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  8. Loved it especially the passage that donnaanddiablo wrote above

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  9. Beautiful passage. Will have to look up more of his stuff.

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  10. I have not heard of this poet…thanks for sharing David.

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  11. Great reminder of what’s really important in life.

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  12. Simple, but right on the mark.

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  13. Thank you for the introduction to this wonderful poet. This poem is so very meaningful.

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  14. simply brilliant.

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  15. So moved. It will join another that you shared once, months back, {Self Portrait} on a spot that I see every morning.

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  16. Let me add my gratitude to the collection of thanks here. I’m so happy you’ve introduced me to this poet and his words.

    Like

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