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When he went away
I had nothing left of him
I had a house
a bed of dreaming wood
some pain on the shelf
a memory faucet
embers to sear my heart
whenever the cold assailed it
and many chimneys
but I had no door
and no window.
Sometimes, at nightfall, I break down and cry
Then I resent my tears, which have illuminated the world
and extinguished me.
Between us is night with its flickering features
a star, stripped of her gown of memories
pasted bare in distant space.
To my brother Najeeb
Whenever I return to the playground of the past
peering into its deceptive spaces
I see your shirt, but not you
your smile, but not you
your eyes, but not myself
I meet, in what I find of you, the longed-for twilight
of when we were together
on the field of our dreams
and the warm blanket of my mother’s stories, embroidered with songs.
Whenever I till the soil of memory
I find you, a stalk of grain aflame with tears
night’s fingers snatch at you
alone, you face the wind
throwing into it all you have left.
Whenever I leaf through the pages of our footsteps
I find you hiding between the lines of the story
shivering in the chill of dreams
I drape you in the cloak of my love
shelter you from the bitter cold of distance
kindle your sorrow to warm us till morning.
Don’t falter now
for the sake of your two new faces
they have already split away from you
and returned to the playground of the past
flinging open the gate of hope.
Translated by Seema Atalla
from ‘Muhawala li-Tathakkur Ma Hadath’
[‘An attempt toremember what happened’],
Andiyat al-Fatayat, Sharjah, al-Dar al-Misriya, al-Lubnaniya, Cairo, 1998