I wrote this poem to a woman I loved, and we split up. Now she has another man, and I have this poem.
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When I left Damascus, I was static and Damascus was moving away. This is something that Einstein tried to define in the theory of relativity, and Whitman in Leaves of Grass, and that I tried to whisper in your ear when you were trying to love me.
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Damascus was moving away, and my heart was carefully wrapped up in my suitcase, my heart that you know well. It was howling like a wolf in the Jordan Desert, while I was tracking down an old hunger because I hadn’t had my fill of love since Damascus left me, and patience is a virtue and God alone can help.
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My heart that you know well. I fed it your husky voice to calm it down, and blew a cloud of kif into it to soothe it, while the Bedouin wearing my skin was wandering in the desert with the Arabs of the north. How can I settle and live in your house when God has confirmed that I will ‘roam through every valley’? How can I settle, when the mawwal poems steal me from my mother’s arms, and your waist, clear as death, takes me captive and lures me away from my friends, so I follow you like Imru’ al-Qays’s friend follows Imru’ al-Qays, from one country to another, and one person to another, and flee from you like a man flees from his brother, his mother and father, his lover and children?
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Damascus was moving away, while I was static, my suitcase escaping ahead of me, and my heart, filled with Arab eloquence, busy moving on, my heart that you know well. Each time I take it out of its cave in the night, so that it can see the moon, it howls your name, but I am harder than stone and my heart, that you know well, does not relent.
Translated by Catherine Cobham