Translated from Arabic by Raya Kab
Our Footprints on Water
As long as we will die,
Each in our own way,
Why do we not die as kindly as our grandmothers?
Like those who bandaged our wounds
And fed the turtle doves
As long as we will die one day,
Why do we not die with joy?
Drinking to those who love us
And to the arms that gently fold us
Who ward us off
Harm, cold, and the evil eye?
As long as we will die one day,
Why do we not die elegantly:
Bathe in perfume every morning,
Wrap ourselves in silk scarves,
And stomp on the floor with Italian shoes,
We are coming?
As long as we will die tomorrow
Or the day after tomorrow
Why do we not die in recognition of our mothers’ favor
Of uninterrupted care,
Night and day
And of setting up an occasion where they prepare kohl
For the beautiful eyes?
Why do we not confront our fathers with the truth:
That they on a plate
Have served us life and disappointments?
Why do we not thank the Cypress
That it taught us sublimity?
As long as we will die tomorrow,
Why do we not die as long as we are impartial,
Where not a single language is broken at our hands
And no moon strays from its goals
Nor has a prophet strayed to the unseen?
As long as we are about to die,
Why do we not leave a burning coal in the fireplace
For the absent lovers?
And an unsigned poem
To keep them warm in a foreign land?
As long as we will die as others did,
Why do we not leave to the rest the keys of time
And our footprints on water?
As long as we pass like time,
Why do we not leave behind in space
Some room for nostalgia,
For the charm of swings,
As long as we will die, like roses in a vase,
Like birds of cold weather,
Like lovers out of intense passion,
Like the destitute on the sidewalks of cities,
Like a whale between high tide and low tide,
Why do some of us insist on leaving their memory in a dustbin,
Like a corpse ravaged by time?
As long as we will die,
As all people do,
Why do we not die and leave a heart full of love
On a tree trunk nearby
So that passers-by are amused when they try
To guess the meaning behind it?
As long as we will inevitably die like the others,
Why, then, are we so astonished
Every time death stretches out his hand to shake?
It is death that comes upon us
He brings no pain to the dead
To prepare for the journey,
We should pack a light bag
One that will not arouse the curiosity of the guards in the corridors
And let us search in dictionaries
For the names of nothingness
Joys that Do Not Come
For whose sake are tree branches stretching out
And shadows growing tall?
For whose sake is light broken in water?
For whose sake does a rose in a book run dry,
And a palm tree break forth in the heart?
For whose sake does rain fall over the sea?
And for whose sake does evening chill?
For whose sake are the machination and plot ripened,
Along the way to doomsday?
For whose sake do people applaud on the rooftops
And young women spray their perfume on the streets
And light up their breasts?
For whose sake are amulets composed and hidden in a star?
For whose sake is kohl softly prepared,
And are bracelets are magically made?
For whose sake are congratulations sent,
And is crocus gathered?
For whose sake are tents pitched,
And does the moon appear like a wide meadow,
On the plain sky?
For whose sake do birds of love laugh,
And are roses hung on balconies?
To whom does the florist secretly give a smile,
And is henna planted?
For whose sake are horses saddled,
And are worn anklets around their hooves?
And for whose sake do female singers trill?
These are questions that are precociously murdered,
With their askers, by the guards
While the guards disappear in the dark
By a bomb
Poems are destined
To lead a short life
With broken rhythms
All poems are born
To keep doctrines
Life is constricted
Like the eye of a needle
The facts come out
From under the rubble
And from hospitals’ wards
All dances around your totem
All images of victory
All the applause
Cannot redeem the fallen
Brokers exchange corpses for corpses,
And do not bat
Everything shows wars
You must look at wars
With your heart
Only if you do not
Lose your mind
Thou shalt not go
When they nod
Nor shalt thou comply
No rose is there at a window
No rose in a book
Nor is there a rose in a vase
There is no rose on a mass grave
Lead to doomsday
We all fall into a ditch
Would we have an exit
Through a poem
That is deadlocked?
From the roofs of houses
Turtle doves take flight
To search for a star in the sky
To no man
Tell the truth
Is slain by lies
The truth is dead
Except for a doll
The paramedics found under the rubble
Huge is the helplessness
And each of us
Is as small as a grain of wheat
Give a smile
In the game of luck
Our heroes emerge
To slaughter the heroes of others
Where the universe is leveled out
Rulers try their luck
To assassinate the human essence
And they succeed
No one comes back unscathed from poems
Neither from language,
Nor from metaphor
They at everything shoot
They shoot at you
At your existence
At your poems
From your notebooks let these latter flee
Where they may survive
In their funerals
With the first burial
Of a smiling child
Meanings and boundaries get blended
With the blood of the murdered
Dogs guard the graves of their owners
Until the graves are dry
Cemeteries bustle with life
And the dead enjoy having a company
The rulers gamble
With their surplus airplanes
With their surplus power and whoredom
And meet at the end of the night
To pray in faith
The war will change its direction
When you think of others
It will become less terrible
Every time you detest your image in the mirror
It will end
If you love for your neighbor
What you love for yourself
So do and say
It was the poem
That saved me
And saved him
As in love:
I wish the boy had been a stone!
Death looks elegant
In the general’s plan
Do not trust in God
Nor in his messengers
Of white men
Trust only that woman
Who took your pulse
That who gave you medicine
That who shed for you a tear
And that who pitched you a tent
In the open field
Everything is written from top to down
All the beautiful names of God
All these are things
That airplanes demolish
And they sink
Into the ground
Time becomes a fiend
And we become the children of the story
Translated from Arabic by Raya Ka