Freeing love in Damascus
Playlist by Aida Yared
Syria's capital has recently been in the news as a wounded city. I thought to celebrate it in Verse by creating a Playlist of Nizar Qabbani’s poems in translation. Qabbani (1923-1998) was born in Damascus. His poetry spanned numerous topics and themes, erotic or political, most importantly a celebration of love, for him closely entwined with the written word. The aim of his work was "to free the soul, body and senses", held prisoners in this area of the world. Many who do not read poetry are familiar with his work through popular songs such as the daring affirmation of faith “I testify that there is no woman but You”. Qabbani died in London but wished to be interred in Damascus. In his will, he described his native city as “the womb that taught me poetry, taught me creativity, and gifted me with an alphabet of jasmine flowers”.
1. Do Readers Know?
Nizar Qabbani
2. A Time for Everything
Nizar Qabbani
3. The Issue
Nizar Qabbani
4. The Qasidah and Geography
Nizar Qabbani
5. Fatima Place de la Concorde
Nizar Qabbani
6. Scribes with No Fingers
Nizar Qabbani
7. Love, with No Maps
Nizar Qabbani
8. The Outlaw
Nizar Qabbani
9. Take Off Your Dust and Wear My Rainfalls
Nizar Qabbani
10. My Country
Nizar Qabbani
11. The Sleep of Birds
Nizar Qabbani
12. I Asked, the Wind Apologized
Nizar Qabbani
13. Come Yesterday
Nizar Qabbani
How were you able you, my lady?
to slip betwixt my hands... and the paper
and inhabit the ink and the pens...
How were you able, my lady?
to erase a line...
and conclude a line...
and slip out from within the words...
Do readers know, my lady?
that it was always you
who signed in my name the Books of Love...
And lo between wine time, and writing time,
There is a time
When the sea is filled with spikes of wheat.
And lo between a drop of ink,
And a drop of ink,
There is a time wherein we sleep together,
Amidst punctuation marks.
To whom asks me what I lack
Thank God for health and a loaf
and what reports the daily press...
I have wee ones filling the house
and a devoted wife.
In the jugs flour and oil.
As for my problem...
It is not with the bread I eat
Or the water I drink
My main issue is Liberty...
In the country of the West, my lady
the poet is born free
like fishes in the expanse of the seas
And he sings...
among the vessels of the lakes,
and the bells in the grazing fields,
and the orchards of pomegrenate
... As for us
The poet is born in a pouch of dust
and sings to kings of dust
It is a miracle...
that poetry transmutes night into day
It is a miracle...
that we plant flowers
within confines, and confines...
We do not write
—like the Western poet, poetry—
But we write, my lady,
a suicide indenture.
It rained on your kohl from the Hijaz
when I was standing Place de la Concorde
I got bewildered, and Paris with me
A government fell, a government was formed
The French neswpapers flew off the stands
The tablecloths flew off the café tables
And the birds asked for political asylum
In your Arabian eyes.
Thank you... whomever reads us
on the stretch of this map of sand
Thank you... whomever reads us
in all the secret rooms
For we are scribes with no fingers
and prophets with no alphabet...
For love in Beirut, there are no maps
and no maps for the love in my heart
So take me anywhere you wish...
Love in Beirut, like God, is everywhere.
The decrees issued by the sultan do not worry me
and my files at Headquarters do not worry me
Only your love, my lady, occupies my mind
Why don't you strip off your skin
and wear the skin of the sea?
Why don't you strip off your mild weather,
and wear my insanity?
Why don't you strip off your robe of dust
and wear my rainsfalls?
The theater was burned to the ground
The actors have not yet died
Without me knowing, I left him my hand
To sleep like a bird between his hands.
I entrusted the wind
To comb the strands of your hair
The wind apologized that time was short
And your hair is long...
If you cannot show up my love
On some urgent excuse
I will be sated with the smell.
If it be you cannot come tomorrow
To our rendez-vous,
Then please come yesterday.
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