"I resemble what no longer resembles me."
Bob Sward's Writer's Friendship Series
Need to Know
13: Free Form
12: The Necessary Ear
11: The Necessary Eye
Issue 10: Out on a Limb
Issue 9: The Missing Body
Issue 8: The Lily
Issue 7: Passages
Issue 6: No More Tears
translated from the
Arabic by Fady Joudah
SONNET [ VI ]
A pine tree in your right hand. A willow in your left. This
is summer: one of your hundred gazelles has surrendered to the dew
and slept on my shoulder, near one of your regions, and so what
if the wolf notices, and a forest burns in the distance.
Your sleepiness is stronger than fear. A wilderness of your beauty
dozes off, and a moon out of your shadows wakes to guard its trees.
What's the name of the place your footsteps tattooed on the ground,
a heavenly ground for the salaam of the birds, near echo?
And stronger than the sword is your sleep between your streamlined arms.
Like two rivers in the dreamer's paradise of what you do on the banks
to yourself carried above yourself. The wolf might carry a flute
and cry by the river: what isn't feminized . . . is in vain.
A bit of weakness in metaphor is enough for tomorrow.
For the berries to ripen on the fence, and for the sword to break under dew
Two Stranger Birds in Our Feathers
My sky is ashen. Scratch my back. And undo
slowly, you stranger, my braids. And tell me
what's on your mind. Tell me what crossed
Youssef's mind. Tell me some simple
talk . . . talk a woman always desires
to be told. I don't want the phrase
complete. Gesture is enough to scatter me in the rise
of butterflies between springheads and the sun. Tell me
I am necessary for you like sleep, and not like nature
filling up with water around you and me. And spread
over me an endless blue wing . . .
My sky is ashen,
as a blackboard is ashen, before
writing on it. So write with my blood's ink anything
that changes it: an utterance . . . two, without
excessive aim at metaphor. And say we are
two stranger birds in Egypt
and in Syria. Say we are two stranger birds
in our feathers. And write my name and yours
beneath the phrase. What time is it now? What color
is my face and yours in new mirrors?
I own nothing for anything to resemble me.
Did the water mistress love you more? Did she seduce you
by the sea rock? Confess now
that you have extended your wilderness twenty years
to stay prisoner in her hands. And tell me
what you think of when the sky is ashen . . .
My sky is ashen.
I resemble what no longer resembles me.
Do you want to return to your exile night
in a mermaid's hair? Or do you want to return
to your home figs? For no honey wounds a stranger
here or there? So what time is it now?
What's the name of this place we're in? And
what's the difference between my sky and your land. Tell me
what Adam said in secret to himself. Was he emancipated
when he remembered. Tell me anything that changes the sky's
ashen color. Tell me some simple
talk, talk a woman desires
to be told every now and then. Say
that two people, like you and me,
can carry all this resemblance between fog
and mirage, then safely return. My sky
is ashen, so what do you think of when the sky
Fady Joudah is a physician member of Doctors Without Borders. His poetry has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, and is the recipient of River City's 2004 prize. The Butterfly's Burden, his translations of Mahmoud Darwish's most recent collections of poetry, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2006.