Saif Al Rahbi (1956 / Oman)
Our old house
It's as if I'm walking
through valleys, filled with fear,
valleys I can neither touch
nor easily recall.
As if I'm taking that first step there,
I walk into our old house, and find emaciated horses,
the ghosts of our ancestors
wander amongst their neighings.
The door opens onto this desert of absence
a smell of grilled fish,
a smell of gas,
wafting from the disused stove.
The jars as they were, speaking to the corners,
and water still boiling in the pots.
The sheep have come back from the fields
except for the one a wolf ate.
Saddles and guns hang on the walls
as if at a funeral gathering.
Tomorrow is Eid al-Adha*,
but the children have forgotten to buy new shoes,
or wash their feet before they slept.
White clouds wrap the neighbouring sky,
and accompany travellers to their distant villages.
And we are swimming in the festival rain,
where birds gently peck the air,
to wake it, with us, on the roofs,
where we dried our dates and dreams
on the clayey balconies
and fell between the feet of an agitated bull,
where the stains of an enervated sun
seize the house, with its birds and women
and ancient trees stumbling like
shepherds among ruins.
Beyond the fence
you can still see the palm trees,
like bewildered spirits colliding with minarets,
like ships lowering their sails
in misty seas,
and amid their somnolence and green dreams
lurks the evening's next soirée.
Translated by Abdulla al-Harrasi
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