Nouri al-Jarrah
Nouri al-Jarrah
Three poems


Not a night passes by without this glare rising, the abducted brilliance of my life;
without pavements forgetting me
and a train taking me again to the cemetery.

It never rises
never glimmers on a glass
without . . .

Once, I came to say good-bye.
I did . . . what others do and, prayed to be like one of them.
Then some angels noticed me, and I stood transfixed
as they recognized me, and began to discuss my identity and relatives.

I didn’t want to be discovered that easily.
They would leave me milk in gleaming pitchers,
then tiptoe out to eavesdrop.

Now I recline in crystalline silence.

What shall I do, in a room in the countryside?
I’d be glad if a messenger arrived on a bicycle,
if a sister came to put in a good word for me –
better than I deserve, I the unsuccessful brother –
in spite of all that has transpired and all that may come to pass.
Without thinking, I find myself writing to you beneath the lights
where nothing frightens me more than these glasses
where this brilliance
touches my shoulder,
is refracted,
touches it again.

Such is the misfortune of one who stands still.
But for me, all is simplified.

In my sleep I watch for you.
I prolong the night, that its mercy
may embrace us both,
hoping to see you quell the froth
and allow me to drink down the darkness.

We will share, the night and I, the agony of encounter
which is what we long for and dread;
our final passage in these cold lands.
Such is the disposition of strength:
the ability to descend ladders into another life.
Or, to put it differently,
an excursion into fear.


My words are dying.
Bringing them water,
I arrive to find them dead –
my words
were born
and lay on this balcony.

Days have passed
and I, as one drugged,
stare out
at yellow cars
on the hill.


Had I known that I was beginning at the end
and the playful yellow
of the trees
had I known,
had it been possible for me to know,
would I be here now, with this child
who carries an orange to the window
and returns
with snow
his fingers?

Had I known,
had there been any hope of my knowing,
would I have arrived, and changed my clothes, and lain down among the leaves…
to die and be buried in your breast
rather than ascending from the window
and soaring out
the night

Translated by Seema Atalla