A Rhyme for the Odes (Mu'allaqat)
No one guided me to myself. I am the guide
Between desert and sea, I am my own guide to myself.
Born of language on the road to India between two small tribes,
adorned by the moonlight of ancient faiths and an impossible peace,
compelled to guard the periphery of a Persian neighborhood
and the great obsession of the Byzantines,
so that the heaviness of time lightens over the Arab's tent.
Who am I? This is a question that others ask, but have no answer.
I am my language, I am an ode, two odes, ten. This is my language.
I am my language. I am words' writ: Be! Be my body!
And I become an embodiment of thier timbre.
I am what I ahve spoken to the words: Be the place where
my body joins the eternity of the desert.
Be, so that I may become my words.
No land on earth bears me. Only my words bear me,
a bird born from me who builds a nest in my ruins
before me, and in the rubble of the enchanting world around me.
I stood on a wind, and my long night without end.
This is my language, a necklace of stars around the necks
of my loved ones. They emigrated.
They carried the place and emigrated, they carried time and emigrated.
They lifted their frangrances from their bowls.
They took their bleak pastures and emigrated.
They took the words. The ravaged heart left with them.
Will the echo, this echo, this white, sonorous mirage
hold a name whose hoarseness fills the unknown
and whom departure fills with divinity?
The sky opened a windon for me. I looked and found nothing
save myself outside itself, as it has always been,
and my desert-haunted visions.
My steps are wind and sand, my world is my body
and what I can hold onto.
I am the traveler and also the road.
Gods appear to me and dissappear.
We don't linger upon what is to come.
There is no tomorrow in this desert, save what we saw yesterday,
so let me brandish my ode to break the cycle of time,
and let there be beautiful days!
How much past tomorrow holds!
I left myself to itself, a self filled with the present.
Departure emptied me of temples.
Heaven has its own nations and wars.
I have a gazelle for a wife,
and palm trees for odes in a book of sand.
What I see is the past.
For mankind, a kingdom of dust and a crown.
Let my language overcome my hostile fate, my line of descendants.
Let it overcome me, my father, and a vanishing that won't vaninsh.
This is my language, my miracle, my magic wand.
This is my obelisk and the gardends of my Babylon,
my first identity, my polished metal, the desert idol of an Arab
who worships what flows from rhymes like stars in his aba,
and who worships his own words.
So let there be prose.
There must be a divine prose for the Prophet to triumph.
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(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
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