An Amazing Poem

Scott Kennedy, NYAP Board of Directors’ Vice Chairman, recently sent us a poem written by Taha Muhammad Ali, one of Israel’s greatest poets. This poem begins with a crying out for revenge to a quiet human frailty. By the end, the narrator, merely by ignoring the tormentor, has achieved all the revenge he needs. Taha Muhammad Ali was born in 1931 in a village in Palestine. At 17 he and his family fled their village after it came under heavy bombardment during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. He and his family settled in Nazareth where he lived the rest of his life. Taha Muhammad Ali passed away this month at the age of 80. Thanks Scott for sending us such a powerful message.


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.

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 a 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.