Hatif Janabi
Five Poems


Hopes are lost because too many are devout
in their supplication.
Shapes howl under the weight of sinners.
And I sit alone chanting the last song
the dreamers sang
and an outcast hummed to the wilderness.
I rinse the dust of old proverbs
with autumn tears
with the whistling of the stars that stare vacantly
at the theatre of words.

All that my brothers told me
and all that my father flung on my back like cape
is not worth the scent of a lost kiss
not worth the moaning of stones
not worth the sighs of an evening
longing to see the day
not worth the burning thirst of one body
for another.

Hopes die at the sight of trees
and words become the body’s dust.

Listen to me:
I stand alone singing the last elegy
the godhead sang
to a human soul.

20 October 1995


The poet is bewitched by light and darkness,
by a dagger that delights in misery
by wind and ruin and echo
by a ravenous temptation.
The poet, a grave dragon,
awakes in the evening dreaming of words.

The departed bury his voice.
Oncomers trample over his grave.

And he has no option but go on.

The poet is stone
ringing . . .
The bewitched poet pains . . .

22 February 1997


In the past, I used to toss words like stars
letting the sky harvest from them its wishes.
In the past I used to torture words:
a gazelle whinnied, a horse roared,.
a frog sprinted, and pigeons brayed . . .
In the past, I was an old guard to an old gate,
a king to a kingdom of dust.
I was a blossom and a thorn,
a punctured blanket in the wind,
a needle moaning in a bed.
In the past, the past was a key and a lock.

What can I deny?
Can I deny the heart gashed with sins
and the tongue dusty with the dirt of words?
Can I deny the imam imploring me with rituals
and the grave digger with his shovel,
and poetry as it whips me
with is chains and arrogance.
What can I do
in this wide wilderness?
In the past, I used to toss words like stars
letting the sky harvest from them its wishes.
In the past silence had
a sound and a meaning.

25 May 1997


Hold my metal hand
and my towering shoulders.
Hold my seashell eyes
and my nose crooked like failure.
Hold my wooden fingers
and my forehead of mud
my teeth of reed.
Hold my steps
        and my echo.
Hold my tongue that stretches
to the end of the horizon,
    and all that can make me aking
    a leader or a hero.

And leave me
my impetuousness,
and my childhood stutter.
my wild fancy
my free soul
my heart of gold.

12 January 1984

Translated by Khaled Mattawa