I have a friend who comes to me in my sleep. I ask him: Where are you? And why did you disappear just like that? He smiles and doesn’t answer. A smile beyond language. When I see that smile it warms my heart. But when I wake up I realize that he died thirty years ago. This happens every time. Every time I discover his death anew.
There are no dead in sleep. There is no loss there. What you lose in wakefulness you find in sleep. That is why sleep remains my pleasure. There are some who go to sleep regretful.
I go to sleep as if returning home, or going to the field.
I have a friend who runs like a river. I am on the bank and he flows below me. I cannot stop it, or swim in it.
“Where are you going?” I say to him. “Come, let’s wake up together. Come!”
Change your course so that it flows right under the threshold of my wakefulness.
But this never happens.
There is a big rivulet flowing in my sleep. The day’s short hand fails in taking one scoop and watering me.
Once my son drew a face in the shape of a circle, but forgot to draw a mouth.
I asked him: “Ahmad, where is the mouth?” He drew a mouth outside the circle.
Perhaps we should kneel before the circle, the dark moon, and make our imploring mouths a halo that encircles it.
The flower has no father or mother. It stands like a lost child at a train station and waits for a hand to hold its hand.
There are only a few words in its mouth. Not even enough for us to know where it came from and where it is going.
As for me, I dream that I am the one who gave birth to it, and who lost it. So I cry over my guilt with the few words in my mouth, with the few words its mouth.
The flower has no mouth and no train to travel on.
I dream that I have lost poetry and will never write it again. It’s a recurring dream. Like the one about being a cripple: I am a young boy with my friends and we are being chased by a something terrifying. When its hand is about to catch us, everyone flaps their wings to fly. Except me. I am the only one with no wings. My legs are crippled. I can neither fly nor run. Fear opens my mouth and I scream. Then I wake up drenched in sweat. This happens to me with poetry. I have a dream where I have lost it forever. It flew away and left me crippled. I try to calm my insufferable self. I say to it: Don’t you remember how many beautiful poems you have written?
I have written enough poems and songs. But they cry over my head, terrified: If you stop you will die.
Poetry is a horrible profession.
A hawk hovering high above your head. Then it suddenly swoops down to chop off your tongue with its beak.
Had I wanted to I could have blown out the ten candles on the table with one blow.
But I blew them out gradually.
Because I wanted my mouth, the mouth of the ravenous lizard, to swallow the fireflies one by one.
I also wanted the night’s caravan to cross a road of smoke and tears.
[Translated from the Arabic by Sinan Antoon. From `Alanda (Ephedra) (Amman: Dar al-Nashir, 2016)]