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Fadwa Touqan: A calm voice and an enlightening presence

My visit to Nablus last month would not have been perfect if I had not visited Fadwa Touqan. Although I felt that this visit might be the last, I was amazed, like I always was, by her sharp memory, her great consciousness, and her profound awareness. Her calm voice spoke of her sorrow upon Nablus, and upon what the city has been subject to since April. Hurting her was the fact that she is unable to walk out of her home to see with her own eyes the news she hears.

            While Fadwa spoke, a film of memories passed by my eyes: a little child enjoying the literary sessions Fadwa led in our home in Nablus, and attempting to imitate her voice in reading poetry; a child learning by heart Fadwa's poem, "What coincidence", and trying to read it in a calm wondering tone; a child standing under the rain, after the 1967 invasion, stating Fadwa's poem:

"Let the rain fall,

Let it purify my city's winds,

Let it wash the mountains, the fields, and the hills,

Let it fall,

Let the rain fall"

In an attempt to answer philosophical critical issues, I was bewildered by her book "In Front of the Closed Door". After reading a poem in Palestinian National Council meeting in Algeria 1988, I was intimately embraced by her. The name of her poem, "Sunflowers", was the name I gave to the choir of the Palestinian Women Union in Cairo. The introduction for literary pros and poetry I published in 1997 was written by Fadwa. In a concert were we both read poetry, after my 27 years of exile, in a time where honest words and warm feelings are seldom found, I felt proud when I heard her introduce me. When she shouted words that the wind carried through time; "My Freedom", my young son turned those words into a revolutionary tune.

            I saw Fadwa building her long tough path in a society that only appreciates the achievements of men. She dug her name into our history patiently and stubbornly, and became a model for generations of young Palestinians to follow. She never used politics to reach a certain position, and never overacted in order to write a political poem and gain a wider audience. She wrote what she knew about, and never wrote what she did not know about. She was loyal to knowledge and culture, and, in return, knowledge and culture were loyal to her.

Fadwa talked about her own pain due to her last illness; she cannot move anymore without her wheelchair and her relatives' help. When we asked her about her latest poems, she read:

"God, do not make a burden of me,

One that generations feel unnecessary,

I await the land of silence,

I await death,

My path is too long now, God,

Make it shorter,

The Zionist rule hurts me,

And so does the curfew,

But what kills me,

Is that in my homeland,

Children are murdered."

 When illness greatly developed, death took its shoes off and waited outside her door after gaining a permit to walk around in a city of curfew. When Fadwa asked God to make her rest, death entered and took her to her forever resting place. Fadwa always wished to die in her homeland, and be buried within its soil.

"It's enough for me,

To die in her land,

And be buried within,

To melt and vanish,

To resurrect as grass upon its fields,

Or as a flower,

A flower with which a child would play,

That child who grew in my country,

It's enough for me,

To stay between my country's arms,

As soil, as grass… as a flower"

Your soul did rest, oh Fadwa, but your words can never rest. They are beautiful and elegant, but as sharp as a sword, capable of creating tens of resisting men and women.

 From your poems we gain threads, and from those threads we create walls in the faces of occupation, death, and stupidity. Your calm voice and enlightening presence help us recreate our culture: one that neither fears difference nor confrontation; one that fights ignorance and works stubbornly and seriously to fulfill goals.