The Trial – Nizar Qabbani

The East receives my songs, some praise, some curse 
To each of them my gratitude I bear 
For I’ve avenged the blood of each slain woman 
and haven offered her who is in fear. 

Woman’s rebellious heart I have supported 
ready to pay the prize – content to die 
if love should slay me, for I am love’s champion 
and if I ceased, then I would not be I. 

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Language – Nizar Qabbani

When a man is in love
how can he use old words?
Should a woman
desiring her lover
lie down with
grammarians and linguists?

I said nothing
to the woman I loved
but gathered
love’s adjectives into a suitcase
and fled from all languages.

Words – Nizar Qabbani

He lets me listen, when he moves me,
Words are not like other words
He takes me, from under my arms
He plants me, in a distant cloud
And the black rain in my eyes
Falls in torrents, torrents
He carries me with him, he carries me
To an evening of perfumed balconies

And I am like a child in his hands
Like a feather carried by the wind
He carries for me seven moons in his hands
and a bundle of songs
He gives me sun, he gives me summer
and flocks of swallows
He tells me that I am his treasure
And that I am equal to thousands of stars
And that I am treasure, and that I am
more beautiful than he has seen of paintings
He tells me things that make me dizzy
that make me forget the dance and the steps

Words…which overturn my history
which make me a woman…in seconds
He builds castles of fantasies
which I live in…for seconds…
And I return…I return to my table
Nothing with me…
Nothing with me…except words

I Have No Power – Nizar Qabbani

‘I have no power to change you
or explain your ways
Never believe a man can change a woman
Those men are pretenders
who think
that they created woman
from one of their ribs
Woman does not emerge from a man’s rib’s, not ever,
it’s he who emerges from her womb
like a fish rising from depths of water
and like streams that branch away from a river
It’s he who circles the sun of her eyes
and imagines he is fixed in place

I have no power to tame you
or domesticate you
or mitigate your first instincts
This task is impossible
I’ve tested my intelligence on you
also my dumbness
Nothing worked with you, neither guidance
nor temptation
Stay primitive as you are

I have no power to break your habits
for thirty years you have been like this
for three hundred years
a storm trapping in a bottle
a body by nature sensing the scent of a man
assaults it by nature
triumphs over it by nature

Never believe what a man says about himself
that he is the one who makes the poems
and makes the children
It is the woman who writes the poems
and the man who signs his name to them
It is the woman who bears the children
and the man who signs at the maternity hospital
that he is the father

I have no power to change your nature
my books are of no use to you
and my convictions do not convince you
nor does my fatherly council do you any good
you are the queen of anarchy, of madness, of belonging
to no one
Stay that way
You are the tree of femininity that grows in the dark
needs no sun or water
you the sea princess who has loved all men
and loved no one
slept with all men… and slept with no one
you are the Bedouin woman who went with all the tribes
and returned a virgin
Stay that way.’

Poem – School of Love

Your love taught me how to grieve,

And for centuries I needed a woman to make me grieve,

I needed a woman

To make me cry on her shoulders like a bird,

I needed a woman to collect my pieces like broken glass.

Oh my lady, your love taught me the worst of my habits,

It taught me how to drink coffee a thousand times every night,

It taught me how to visit doctors and ask soothsayers,

It taught me to go out to scan the streets,

To seek your face in the rain and in the lights,

To chase your shadow in the faces of strangers,

To hunt your aura even in the newspapers!

Your love showed me the sadness city,

Which I have never entered ere you,

I have never known that the tear is humane,
And the human without tears is just a memory!

Your love taught me

How to draw your face on the walls with chalk like kids,

It taught me how love can change the map of times,

It taught me that when I love,

The earth stands still!

Your love showed me what hallucination is,

It taught me how to love you in every little thing,

In the bare, autumn trees,

In the falling, yellow leafs,

In the rain,

In every cafeteria in which we drank our black coffee,

My lady, your love taught me to sleep in nameless hotels,

And to sit by nameless shores,

It taught me to weep without tears,

Your love taught me how to grieve,

And for centuries I needed a woman to make me grieve,

I needed a woman

To make me cry on her shoulders like a bird,

I needed a woman to collect my pieces like broken glass, 

Poem – My Angry Cat 

You’re repeating yourself

for the twentieth time.

Is there another man in my life? 

Yes. Yes. What did you think? 

Even graveyards have visitors.

There are, my dear sir,

a lot of men out there,

and no garden is ever devoid of birds.

You’re just an experience I had,

and here I am,

tired and bored from this experience,

out from under your spell.

I’m cured of all

my weakness and gullibility.

Niceties do, after all, always end.

You love me! 

There you go again,

dredging up all that ancient history.

And since when did you ever show

the slightest interest in me

outside the contour of my hips? 

Where does this sudden gush of love come from? 

I was never anything more

than a forsaken chair

among your expensive furniture,

a garden you chose to raze

without shame or repentance.

Why are you staring at my breasts

as if you owned them? 

And why do you weep as if you

stood before a lost kingdom? 

Your glorious kingdom, dear sir,

has just crumbled.

There. I’ve settled my score

in an instant.

You tell me now

who’s losing the game.

I opened myself to you

like the Garden of Eden,

gave you all the sweet fruit

and green grass you desired.

Today I offer you

neither heaven nor hell.

This is what you get

for acting the ungrateful.

You faithless. If you’d only treated me

like a human being – just once –

this other man wouldn’t exist. 

Poem – Jerusalem

I wept until my tears were dry

I prayed until the candles flickered

I knelt until the floor creaked

I asked about Mohammed and Christ

Oh Jerusalem, the fragrance of prophets

The shortest path between earth and sky

Oh Jerusalem, the citadel of laws

A beautiful child with fingers charred

and downcast eyes

You are the shady oasis passed by the Prophet

Your streets are melancholy

Your minarets are mourning

You, the young maiden dressed in black

Who rings the bells in the Nativity

On Saturday morning?

Who brings toys for the children

On Christmas eve?

Oh Jerusalem, the city of sorrow

A big tear wandering in the eye

Who will halt the aggression

On you, the pearl of religions?

Who will wash your bloody walls?

Who will safeguard the Bible?

Who will rescue the Quran?

Who will save Christ?

Who will save man?

Oh Jerusalem my town

Oh Jerusalem my love

Tomorrow the lemon trees will blossom

And the olive trees will rejoice

Your eyes will dance

The migrant pigeons will return

To your sacred roofs

And your children will play again

And fathers and sons will meet

On your rosy hills

My town

The town of peace and olives.