About us | Introduction | Home |

Home >> Modern Arabic Poetry >> Nizar Qabbani >> Damascus, What Are You Doing to Me?

Damascus, What Are You Doing to Me?

Poem No.: 125 :


1

My voice rings out, this time, from Damascus

It rings out from the house of my mother and father

In Sham. The geography of my body changes.

The cells of my blood become green.

My alphabet is green.

In Sham. A new mouth emerges for my mouth

A new voice emerges for my voice

And my fingers

Become a tribe

2

I return to Damascus

Riding on the backs of clouds

Riding the two most beautiful horses in the world

The horse of passion.

The horse of poetry.

I return after sixty years

To search for my umbilical cord,

For the Damascene barber who circumcised me,

For the midwife who tossed me in the basin under the bed

And received a gold lira from my father,

She left our house

On that day in March of 1923

Her hands stained with the blood of the poem

3

I return to the womb in which I was formed . . .

To the first book I read in it . . .

To the first woman who taught me

The geography of love . . .

And the geography of women . . .

4

I return

After my limbs have been strewn across all the continents

And my cough has been scattered in all the hotels

After my mothers sheets scented with laurel soap

I have found no other bed to sleep on . . .

And after the bride of oil and thyme

That she would roll up for me

No longer does any other "bride" in the world please me

And after the quince jam she would make with her own hands

I am no longer enthusiastic about breakfast in the morning

And after the blackberry drink that she would make

No other wine intoxicates me . . .

5

I enter the courtyard of the Umayyad Mosque

And greet everyone in it

Corner to . . . corner

Tile to . . . tile

Dove to . . . dove

I wander in the gardens of Kufi script

And pluck beautiful flowers of Gods words

And hear with my eye the voice of the mosaics

And the music of agate prayer beads

A state of revelation and rapture overtakes me,

So I climb the steps of the first minaret that encounters me

Calling:

Come to the jasmine

Come to the jasmine

6

Returning to you

Stained by the rains of my longing

Returning to fill my pockets

With nuts, green plums, and green almonds

Returning to my oyster shell

Returning to my birth bed

For the fountains of Versailles

Are no compensation for the Fountain Caf

And Les Halles in Paris

Is no compensation for the Friday market

And Buckingham Palace in London

Is no compensation for Azem Palace

And the pigeons of San Marco in Venice

Are no more blessed than the doves in the Umayyad Mosque

And Napoleons tomb in Les Invalides

Is no more glorious than the tomb of Salah al-Din Al-Ayyubi

7

I wander in the narrow alleys of Damascus.

Behind the windows, honeyed eyes awake

And greet me . . .

The stars wear their gold bracelets

And greet me

And the pigeons alight from their towers

And greet me

And the clean Shami cats come out

Who were born with us . . .

Grew up with us . . .

And married with us . . .

To greet me . . .

8

I immerse myself in the Buzurriya Souq

Set a sail in a cloud of spices

Clouds of cloves

And cinnamon . . .

And camomile . . .

I perform ablutions in rose water once.

And in the water of passion many times . . .

And I forgetwhile in the Souq al-Attarine

All the concoctions of Nina Ricci . . .

And Coco Chanel . . .

What are you doing to me Damascus?

How have you changed my culture? My aesthetic taste?

For I have been made to forget the ringing of cups of licorice

The piano concerto of Rachmaninoff . . .

How do the gardens of Sham transform me?

For I have become the first conductor in the world

That leads an orchestra from a willow tree!!

9

I have come to you . . .

From the history of the Damascene rose

That condenses the history of perfume . . .

From the memory of al-Mutanabbi

That condenses the history of poetry . . .

I have come to you . . .

From the blossoms of bitter orange . . .

And the dahlia . . .

And the narcissus . . .

And the "nice boy" . . .

That first taught me drawing . . .

I have come to you . . .

From the laughter of Shami women

That first taught me music . . .

And the beginning of adolesence

From the spouts of our alley

That first taught me crying

And from my mothers prayer rug

That first taught me

The path to God . . .

10

I open the drawers of memory

One . . . then another

I remember my father . . .

Coming out of his workshop on Muawiya Alley

I remember the horse-drawn carts . . .

And the sellers of prickly pears . . .

And the cafs of al-Rubwa

That nearlyafter five flasks of araq

Fall into the river

I remember the colored towels

As they dance on the door of Hammam al-Khayyatin

As if they were celebrating their national holiday.

I remember the Damascene houses

With their copper doorknobs

And their ceilings decorated with glazed tiles

And their interior courtyards

That remind you of descriptions of heaven . . .

11

The Damascene House

Is beyond the architectural text

The design of our homes . . .

Is based on an emotional foundation

For every house leans . . . on the hip of another

And every balcony . . .

Extends its hand to another facing it

Damascene houses are loving houses . . .

They greet one another in the morning . . .

And exchange visits . . .

Secretlyat night . . .

12

When I was a diplomat in Britain

Thirty years ago

My mother would send letters at the beginning of Spring

Inside each letter . . .

A bundle of tarragon . . .

And when the English suspected my letters

They took them to the laboratory

And turned them over to Scotland Yard

And explosives experts.

And when they grew weary of me . . . and my tarragon

They would ask: Tell us, by god . . .

What is the name of this magical herb that has made us dizzy?

Is it a talisman?

Medicine?

A secret code?

What is it called in English?

I said to them: Its difficult for me to explain

For tarragon is a language that only the gardens of Sham speak

It is our sacred herb . . .

Our perfumed eloquence

And if your great poet Shakespeare had known of tarragon

His plays would have been better . . .

In brief . . .

My mother is a wonderful woman . . . she loves me greatly . . .

And whenever she missed me

She would send me a bunch of tarragon . . .

Because for her, tarragon is the emotional equivalent

To the words: my darling . . .

And when the English didnt understand one word of my poetic argument . . .

They gave me back my tarragon and closed the investigation . . .

13

From Khan Asad Basha

Abu Khalil al-Qabbani emerges . . .

In his damask robe . . .

And his brocaded turban . . .

And his eyes haunted with questions . . .

Like Hamlets

He attempts to present an avant-garde play

But they demand Karagozs tent . . .

He tries to present a text from Shakespeare

They ask him about the news of al-Zir . . .

He tries to find a single female voice

To sing with him . . .

Oh That of Sham

They load up their Ottoman rifles,

And fire into every rose tree

That sings professionally . . .

He tries to find a single woman

To repeat after him:

Oh bird of birds, oh dove

They unsheathe their knives

And slaughter all the descendents of doves . . .

And all the descendents of women . . .

After a hundred years . . .

Damascus apologized to Abu Khalil al-Qabbani

And they erected a magnificent theater in his name.

14

I put on the jubbah of Muhyi al-Din Ibn al-Arabi

I descend from the peak of Mt. Qassiun

Carrying for the children of the city . . .

Peaches

Pomegranates

And sesame halawa . . .

And for its women . . .

Necklaces of turquoise . . .

And poems of love . . .

I enter . . .

A long tunnel of sparrows

Gillyflowers . . .

Hibiscus . . .

Clustered jasmine . . .

And I enter the questions of perfume . . .

And my schoolbag is lost from me

And the copper lunch case . . .

In which I used to carry my food . . .

And the blue beads

That my mother used to hang on my chest

So People of Sham

He among you who finds me . . .

let him return me to Umm Muataz

And Gods reward will be his

I am your green sparrow . . . People of Sham

So he among you who finds me . . .

let him feed me a grain of wheat . . .

I am your Damascene rose . . . People of Sham

So he among you who finds me . . .

let him place me in the first vase . . .

I am your mad poet . . . People of Sham

So he among you who sees me . . .

let him take a souvenir photograph of me

Before I recover from my enchanting insanity . . .

I am your fugitive moon . . . People of Sham

So he among you who sees me . . .

Let him donate to me a bed . . . and a wool blanket . . .

Because I havent slept for centuries

_______________

Translated from the Arabic by Shareah Taleghani


(adab.com)


Send a report
Add to your favourites
Send to a friend
Print version


Search poem    Search poet

          
  
       Advanced Search | All poets | Contact us  
Statistics/ Latest additions | Services

Send a poem | Tell a friend | Contact us



مجلة الساخر  حديث المطابع     منتديات الساخر




""
.
Copyright 2005, adab.com