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CONCERTO FOR JERUSALEM
TRANSLATED BY KHALED MATTAWA
1. Heavenly Summation
Up there, up above,
Look at her dangling from the sky’s throat.
Look at her being fenced by the eyelashes of angels.
No one can go afoot toward her.
One can use his forehead, palms, perhaps his navel.
Barefoot, knock on her door.
A prophet will open it, and teach you how to walk, and how to
A stage play directed by the all-powerful, the almighty.
And the lord does thus for all his sons:
– “Here I am, a silhouette of Jerusalem,”
cried a three-headed dummy on the stage, then exited.
Bayt al-Maqdes complained of its ruins to the Lord
And the Lord revealed to it:
“I will fill you with faces that long for you
the way doves long for their young.”
– Fear God, O Ka’ab, how can you say this?
Does Bayt al-Maqdes have a tongue?
– Yes, and a heart like you.
(reported by Ka’ab)
A stage play directed by the all-powerful, the almighty.
For so long I’ve begged bread to criticize salt.
Many times, I’ve heard people ask me, whispering: “Why is
death always late in Jerusalem, while the march of life
becomes another death?”
And how can a head be imprisoned in the cellar of the words
that it had invented?
Truly, the unknown becomes deceptive in Jerusalem, and he is
the master of all deceivers.
In a corner, in the farthest reaches of my desert,
A gazelle weeps.
Time rushing through the streets of Jerusalem, I know your
I was commanded to offer you the juice of uranium. I will tell
the moon to sign your book, and the sun to date the signing.
And look, here are walls spilling the milk of their sadness
On your ground, celebrating you.
Time, you know,
That the ants stand higher than all the planets:
Ants spoke to Solomon,
But the planets never could.
Perhaps this is why ants can prophesy:
Belts, masks, trenches, earth movers,
Bombs, missiles, suitcases, tyres, and electronic brains:
These are the coming days.
Perhaps that is why
The sky has become a secret hole in history’s ceiling.
“Jerusalem, land of summoning and judgement.”
(a Hadith narrated by Abu Dhar)
“He who dies in Jerusalem, is like one who dies in the heavens.”
(a Hadith narrated by Abu Huraira)
But, here’s Imru ul-Qais!
He is passing by Jerusalem as he heads to Byzantium.
Before his feet touch the threshold, he says:
To the blood shed on the shores of the Mediterranean
From the beginnings, a ravaged history.
To the earth’s history
A heavenly summation named Jerusalem.
But why are there only two kinds of people in it:
The dead who live in poverty,
And the living who live in graves?
Day and night wrestle, each trying to choke the other in the
name of Jerusalem.
Time made a documentary film of the battle.
But Imru ul-Qais said, departing,
In the beginning was the word,
In the beginning of the word was blood.
A stage play directed by the all-powerful, almighty.
Imru ul-Qais have you tired of walking these streets divided by
How excellent they are at kidnapping?
How powerful their walls at intercepting people’s words?
Every time you try to embrace a woman, a guard asks you:
Do you have the heavens’ permission?
Indeed, all the fruits on these streets are bitter.
Nonetheless, you go on walking, more persistently
Than a hungry male ant,
Making of your steps strings for music that has yet to arrive,
Edged by reeds of erect dreams that the eggs of doubt shun.
You suspect that your bed is another night altogether
And someone is whispering to you:
Night lies, as usual, even though he is the sun’s most loyal
You are used to starting from point zero by now
Because you have caught the scent of eternities.
Your grandmother, that Ukhazi sky, used to tuck money into her
Which was nothing by dice,
And she demanded they spread them at night on the sands of the
stars, if they wanted to finish their dreams.
And according to her commands,
They did lay their qasidas on the sand
In blessing and celebration.
You are now under another sky. Bleeding walls surround you.
Heads that are almost cut off speak without ceasing.
Have no fear, dear wind,
Forest on fire hide behind the traps you have set.
And there are springs spilling blood from the eye of the needle
the sky holds in her
– The words of swords and spears and they prey on anyone who
– Angels have preferred to become lovers where the smoke of
Arab musk is a space
for their banishment between Hejaz and Jerusalem.
– Your sky is a linguistic etching. Your earth is weighted with
delusions. Whenever a word heaves among the etchings, the
teeth of history rattle, and heads roll in all directions, while the
stars appear like bundles of straw.
– The history of a milk that escaped the bosoms of their mothers
to feed the moon and the stars.
– When the storm attacks, it has no weapon except our bodies. It
fills our days with black clouds that no light can read.
– This is how we make coffins before their time is due. We anoint
them with the perfume of pre-creation. In their names, we slit
the artery of the earth to feed the veins of the unknown.
– History, read your horoscope, and you will see how delusions
are turned into towers of facts.
– The body of history surrenders on astrology’s bed. Here it is
unbuttoning its clothes.
The wind reads the roses.
Perfumes write them.
A woman in love entered her garden in Jerusalem, where her
The flowers form a net that tangled her steps.
She laughed and said,
Must I then sew a new dress for every flower?
Yesterday when I met her, night whispered in my ear:
Perfume is the rose’s child,
But he is born a young man.
(Tension, killing, arrest, ambulance, fire, victims, accusations,
prohibitions, insurrections, infiltration, interrogation,
detention unit, apprehension, prisons, demolition, occupation)
I said to my imagination, be brave, and put your hand on the
shoulders of Jerusalem.
And I said to Jerusalem,
I am coming toward you, why do I keep walking backwards?