Bassam Hajjar
Bassam Hajjar (1955-2009)
Bassam Hajjar: The Interpretation of Marble

I don’t mind,
when I look,
from the edge of fifty –
the commotion of pedestrians on a wide street,
down there,
where the shops are,
the taxicabs,
a bunch of students and workers and the unemployed,
fathers who are looking for a safe place
in which to keep the pleasures of seeking,
the hardships of seeking,
day by day,
until the seeking day is over,
and the shortest among them,
the most short-lived,
finds refuge in a night of doubts and suspicion.

I don’t mind,
at sunset,
men who drag the disappointments of hardships into lit houses
with the fever of hope
if there is any hope left

And I don’t mind –
when I look,
absent-mindedly –
days I should have lived,
or the shadow I used to be should have lived,
or the person who was for years in my company

And years elapse
like a silent dialogue
like a speeding bus
ahead of me
filled with those who live without me, here
or there

As if these were the memories of the person
I’ve always wanted to be
As if these were memories I’ve read in a book
which I then lost
a book borrowed by a friend then lost
maybe I sold it to a book peddler
a basket weaver
who will carry it to the end of the world
and barter it for a loaf of bread
a drink
a warm cup of soup

And I don’t mind
when I look
at me
the one who doesn’t mind

For I don’t care what happens metres away
miles away
and seas
and tales
away from the gate of my absent-mindedness

Translated by Anton Shammas
From the poet’s collection of the same title
Tafseer Al-Rukham, [The Interpretation of Marble], Beirut, 2006.

Bassam Hajjar was to have been at the reading by Lebanese poets at the Ledbury Poetry Festival. Unfortunately, due to being sick he could not make the visit to the UK.  The Ledbury Poetry Festival event, featuring poets whose works were in Banipal 28, took place on Saturday 7 July at 2.30pm. For more information click here

For details of the London Banipal–Institut Français Reception and Reading for the poets from Lebanon, click here and scroll down to the bottom of the page.

In February 2009 we had to report that Bassam Hajjar had died from the cancer he had been suffering from.  Now, in 2019, in the forthcoming Banipal 64, Spring 2019, we pay tribute to him, in a 10-year memorial, as translator, philosopher and poet, with a profile about him and translations of his poetry by Farnaz Perry.