Treasure Island

Nizar Qabbani

(1923 - 1998 / Damascus / Syria)

Between us


Between us
twenty years of age
between your lips and my lips
when they meet and stay
the years collapse
the glass of a whole life shatters.

The day I met you I tore up
all my maps
an my prophecies
like an Arab stallion I smelled the rain
of you
before it wet me
heard the pulse of your voice
before you spoke
undid your hair with my hands
before you had braided it

There is nothing I can do
nothing you can do
what can the wound do
with the knife on the way to it?

Your eyes are like a night of rain
in which ships are sinking
and all I wrote is forgotten
In mirrors there is no memory.

God how is it that we surrender
to love giving it the keys to our city
carrying candles to it and incense
falling down at its feet asking
to be forgiven
Why do we look for it and endure
all that it does to us
all that it does to us?

Woman in whose voice
silver and wine mingle
in the rains
From the mirrors of your knees
the day begins its journey
life puts out to sea

I knew when I said
I love you
that I was inventing a new alphabet
for a city where no one could read
that I was saying my poems
in an empty theater
and pouring my wine
for those who could not
taste it.

When God gave you to me
I felt that He had loaded
everything my way
and unsaid all His sacred books.

Who are you
woman entering my life like a dagger
mild as the eyes of a rabbit
soft as the skin of a plum
pure as strings of jasmine
innocent as children's bibs
and devouring like words?

Your love threw me down
in a land of wonder
it ambushed me like the scent
of a woman stepping into an elevator
it surprised me
in a coffee bar
sitting over a poem
I forgot the poem
It surprised me
reading the lines in my palm
I forgot my palm
It dropped on me like a blind deaf
wildfowl
its feathers became tangled with mine
its cries were twisted with mine

It surprised me
as I sat on my suitcase
waiting for the train of days
I forgot the days
I traveled with you
to the land of wonder

Your image is engraved
on the face of my watch
It is engraved on each of the hands
It is etched on the weeks
months years
My time is no longer mine
it is you

Submitted: Wednesday, September 04, 2013
Edited: Wednesday, September 04, 2013

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