Creating people's geographies
Open Democracy :: 12 September 2006
“Everything ends in one minute.” openDemocracy publishes this “paragraph prayer” written by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish in response to war’s crimes and destruction.
In one minute the lifetime of a house is ended. When a house is killed, it is a serial killing, even if the house is empty: a mass grave of all the things once used to give a home to Meaning, or, in times of war, to a marginal poem.
A slaughtered house is the severing of things from what they meant, from the feelings they inspired. It’s the duty of tragedy to change the gaze of eloquence and to reflect upon the life of Things, for in everything there’s a being that suffers: a memory of fingers, a memory of a smell, a memory of a picture. Houses are murdered just as their inhabitants are killed and the memories of things are slaughtered: stones, wood, glass, iron, mortar – scattered like human limbs. Cotton silk, linen, exercise books, books – torn apart like the unsaid words of people who did not have the time to say them. Dishes broken, spoons, toys, old records, pipes, doorknobs, the refrigerator, the washing machine, pots, jars of olives and pickles, cars – all broken, like their owners. The two whites – sugar and salt – are trod upon along with matchboxes, medicines, birth control pills, steroids, strings of garlic and onions, dried okra, tomatoes, rice and lentils – all are trod upon as are their owners.
Land-deeds and marriage certificates torn apart with birth papers, water and electricity bills, identity cards, passports, love letters – torn apart like the hearts of their owners.
Photographs are swept away with combs, make-up, brushes, shoes, lingerie, sheets, towels, swept away like family secrets betrayed to others and to devastation. All these things are the memories of people deprived of things, and the memory of things deprived of people …. Everything ends in one minute. Things die like we do, but they are not buried with us.
Translation: Tania Nasir and John Berger