"The birds shall return"


Fadwa Tuqan     1917 — 2003


The Deluge and the Tree

When the hurricane swirled and spread its deluge of dark evil
onto the good green land
'they' gloated.

The western skies reverberated with joyous accounts:
"The Tree has fallen!
The great trunk is smashed!
The hurricane leaves no life in the Tree!"

Had the Tree really fallen?
Not with our red streams flowing forever,
not while the wine of our torn limbs
feed the thirsty roots,
Arab roots alive
tunneling deep, deep, into the land!

When the Tree rises up, the branches
shall flourish green and fresh in the sun
the laughter of the Tree shall leaf
beneath the sun
and birds shall return

Undoubtedly, the birds shall return.

The birds shall return.

(Translated from Italian)

Fadwa Tuqan The Poetess of Palestine consecrated her life to Literature, to poetry and to the defense of her homeland devastated by the tragedies of the diáspora, the military occupation of Palestine and the repression.

During her long fertile literary life, Fadwa has published numerous poetry volumes, including:

Alone with the days (1952)

I found It (1958)

Danos Love, (Give us love 1960)

In front of the Closed Door (Before the Closed Door 1967)

The Night and the Riders (Horsemen and the Night 1969)

On the Threshold of an Alone World (Alone on the Summit of the World 1973)

Julio and the Other Thing.

The Last Tonada.

Also published are two books:

Mountainous Journey - A Poet's Autobiography 1990

al-Rihlah al-as°ab (Rihla As'ab - The Difficult Trip - Arabic 1993)

Fadwa Tuqan, sister of Palestinian poet Ibrahim Tuqan, has been awarded on many occasions, in Palestine and around the world, including the International Poetry Award in Palermo. She was a member of the Board of Trustees for An-Najah University.

In her native city Nablus, a massive goodbye was given to the great poetess Monday the 15 of December 2003, with many thousands of citizens of the political and literary world attending.   A world of readers, followers, and lovers of literature.

Fadwa Tuqan (talking about the English selling her people in the slave market)

Behind the walls of them

An unjust hand has constructed it

and it remains in its size

like one eternal misery.

I have watched its melancholy walls,

worn and deteriorated from the long centuries, screaming:

You remove from me the light and the freedom,

but you will not be able to extinguish in my heart

the spark of hope.

Cursed, you will be to suffocate every dream

that reinvigerates as it feeds.

My heart will never stop to dream

even if this cell will be closed for ever.

If a thousand chains tie me

as many fantastic wings will make me fly.

I will curse each person and those of your future for as long as I can.

for I will not bow, will never be silent

in front of the fury.

I never will stop being free.

I will sing the desires of my spirit,

even if you will crush me in chains.

My song will gush from the depth.

("Single with the days ", Cairo, 1952)

(Translated from Spanish)

The best-known Palestinian poetess, Fadwa Tuqan, 86, died in the West Bank town of Nablus, her family has revealed.

She died Friday night in hospital, where she had been in a coma for several days following a stroke.

Fadwa Tuqan has won several international prizes.   Born in 1917 to one of Nablus' leading families, she knew Palestine under British rule, she saw the creation of the state of Israel and the occupation and loss of Palestinian autonomy.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization have presented their condolences to the family, referring to the great writer as "Palestine's great poetess."

The career of Fadwa Tuqan began by writing of nature, love and loneliness.   There was much sadness even before turning to the homeland troubles that developed after the Israeli occupation.

She has been a rare feminine voices in poetry.   Her work tells of the struggle of her homeland, and her people stripped of their land and liberty.   Her work describing vividly the cruelty that has taken place during the occupation of the territories.

My city is sad

The day in which we knew the death and treason,

the tide was made back,

the windows of the sky were closed,

and the city contained its breaths.

The day of the crease of the waves; the day

in which the abominable passion opened the face,

the hope was reduced to ashes,

and my sad city was asphyxiated

while swallowing the pain.

If echoes and without signs,

the children, the songs, loose themselves.

While they undress, covered with blood feet,

the sadness crawls in my city,

a planted silence as it mounts,

dark like night

a terrible silence that transports

the weight of the death and the defeat.

Ay, my sad enmudecida city!

The fruits and the grain can thus be burned,

in time of harvest?

Painful end of the route!

Poetry was liberation for Fadwa Tuqan.   The strict rules of her childhood and the sexual stereotypes she mentions in her autobiography became her fight.

She moved to Jerusalem in 1939 and became enamored with the more non-traditional society and with the experiences she encountered.   The traditional mores of gender segregation at the time were changing rapidly.

In 1948, with the fleeing from the war, there was a large swelling of people in Nablus, her home town to which she had returned.   This influx of people began to identify itself as a center of culture for the Palestinian people and Fadwa found herself in the heart of it.  

She has written that this led to a great sense of freedom for herself, to be among her people, and to be at her people's cultural heart center.


The wind drags polen,

and our earth is shaken at night in the tremors of the childbirth.

And the twig is deceived itself,

counting the history of the incapacity,

the history of the ruin and the rubbish.

Young morning ours... You count, you to the twig

how they are the tremors of the childbirth;

You count how the daisies are born

of the pain, the Earth,

and how the morning rises

of carnation, of the blood in hurt.

The refugee situation was to be the main theme of her poetry after the dispersion and she could liken it to the dispersion of Jews outside of Israel from the sixth century B.C. when they began to be exiled to Babylonia, and onwards until the present time.   In the forceful imagery that she began to invoke, she spoke of the dispersion of the Palestinian people from their homeland.

Under the weight of the cross

On the road of agony

Jerusalem is whipped.

The soldier’s lashes draw blood.

But the world’s heart is closed to the tragedy.

This stone-cold world, Lord, is blind.

(The Christ, Fadwa Tuqan)

(Translated from German)

For many years Ms Tuqan travelled extensively through Europe.

She studied English language and literature at Oxford University between 1962 to 1964, loving the country journeys and writing with fondness of the 'aged metropolis', London, where it was possible to become anonymous.

Her development as a poet, with the initial help of her brother Ibrahim Tuqan who died in 1941, allowed her to find a vivid personal freedom where she could express her solidarity with the extended grouping of Palestinian people as they were torn and moved around from their roots.

The Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967 and the occupation of the Gaza Strip, moved her away from traditional forms of Arabic poetry that she had used until this time, a styling which relied heavily on rhetoric and dramatic phrasing.

Her writing became increasingly politicised and she adapted a style of free verse, unrhymed with no fixed metrical pattern.

Don't you want to open this gate for me?

My hands became tired,

and still I knock, knock on your door.

To your house I came,

requesting a little quiet,

a little peace.

But your yard is locked before me,

wrapped in silence...

O master of the house —

0pen was once this gate

and the place a refuge

for all with pain.

Open was once this gate,

and the oil tree green, freely stretching,

embraced tenderly the house.

And the oil shone without fire.

along the guard steps that lay rested at night,

and the bending under the load of the earth,

that rested blessedly in the peaceful silence of this tide.

Do you hear me, master of the house?

I, lost in lonely deserts far of you,

turn now to your home.

But your yard is locked before me,

wrapped in silence.

But your yard is covered

with death dust.

If you are still here, then open the gate —


Veil? not your face before me!

See — I, who have become an orphan and lost

in the ruin of the world, which destroyed,

on my shoulders, of the earth wronged,

and horror of the fright of fate,

the outrageous...

(From the work of Annemarie Schimmel; Dein Wille geschehe)

(Translated from Portuguese)

I will not cry

To the doors of Yafa

all friends mine,

and between the rubbish chaos of the houses,

between the undernourishment and the thorns,

I said to the eyes, be quiet:

You stop you...

Let us cry on the ruins

those who have left, leaving them.

The house is calling to that who built it

The house is giving the condolence from him.

And the heart, exhausted moans

and it says:

What have you done in these days?

What of those that before you lived?

You have known of them?

You have known its game?

Here they dreamed, those who were here

and they drew up the plans

drew them in the morning.

More, Where are the dreams

and the morning?

And, Where, where they?

How will they squash the wounds?

How will I loose the desperation?

How am I going to cry

before you...

Right, as of today, not to cry.

Amadísimos mine:

The chestnut, the special one, the love of the town,

he who has surpassed

the slip of yesterday,

who hears afar, after the river, the heroes

they who are gone.

You listen very kind,

you, the special one, tho one who whinnies

who trusts in its assault;

hoping that it already escapes the siege of dark misfortune,

as he runs towards his position, on the sun.

While compact groups of riders

they bless and they swear devotion to him

they that are dew to him, among the smoke of cleaning,

cleaning that now has become carnelian, clear, deep, red,

that has the blood of choruses,

that give him his despoiling

his copius food.

And they, sending to him, they acclaim:

It runs to the eye of the sun!

It runs to the eye of the sun!

It runs, special chestnut of the town!

That you are the signal

and the standard,

and we as companions

we follow.

No longer the tide can be stopped,

The passion and the wrath

no longer can we fall in our land

without fighting,

no more the fatigue;

nor will we be quiet,

until seeing expelled

those to ghosts and shades.

A piece of poetry inspired by a real fact, these words, written in another form, had been found in the agenda of a Palestinian guerrilla who died in 1967.

Fadwa Tuqan:

I sit down to write...

But, what it is that I can write?

That it is worth to say 'my homeland'

'My people'

'My people'

Will it be that I can protect my people with words?

Will it be that with words I will save my people?

By chance perhaps is it not absolutely ridicule, for me to sit, today, to write?

That the bullet cries out, and silences the penalty.

Not hardly that it should, the penalty does not have to keep silent,

It must simply say that Palestine during the last thousand and six hundred years was not waiting as an empty and vacated property.


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