Revenge, by Taha Muhammad Ali

I usually cannot refrain from making some comment about a poem that I read or post here. Mostly it is because I love the poems I share with you and we often speak much about what we love. But tonight I want to just let this poem speak for itself. I will only add that I want to be like this man. I am not yet like this man, but I would like to be.

I am not sure how I came across this poem this week, but I stumbled upon it in my reading and I cannot let it go, so I give it to you. Peace.



by Taha Muhammad Ali, translated by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi and Gabriel Levin
21 December 2006

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.


Likewise … I
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,
neighbours 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 sister,
wifeless, without a child,
and without kin or neighbours 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.

April 15, 2006

Read more about this poem and this poet here and here.

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    Good poem..imagine living in Nazareth..seems amazing ! kristine

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anonymous says:

    Never know if my k


    1. Refresh the page, dear. They are here. 🙂


  3. slpmartin says:

    The last two lines of the poem speak volumes….another fine reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. John says:

    However it came to be that you ran across this poem, I’m glad you shared it … a beautiful poem that inspires much thought and soul-searching.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remembered! I found it in a talk by Mark Doty from 2008 on “Why Poetry Matters Now.”. I was listening to this late last week, and in here he did a reading of the poem. It’s worth all 36 minutes. You can listen, and read along to most of his talk right here:


  5. Wow–a very wise and moving poem, movingly read. Thanks for this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jennifer. It was one of those that really hit me hard, but good.


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