by Amal Nawwar

Translated by
Issa J. Boullata

Being Zero

Amal NawwarI will crouch in my natural size: naught.
How frightened light will be if it sees me!
I will be a dot as long and as wide as the question
and I will know
that pain will not increase or decrease.

And I will be scattered in the river like time,
like barking,
like the ink of expected thoughts.

And the one whose memory is a pasture will forget me.
He will pull out the moss on his holiday,
then sit in the sun on the other days
void of any thought.

As for the sea, its eye is larger
and it will swallow the scene.
who will hunt down my eyes in the grass
and my heart among the hearts of the whales?
Who will catch the thread leading to the foot?
And in whose mind will the darkness beyond loom?

The life of a zero does not need pride,
nor does it need a sail
or a bell.
Perhaps it needs energy
to turn on its engine in the wind.

I will wait for nobody.
I will take my body to the river bank,
I will dig the years with my fingernails,
and no signs will shine on the horizon
for all the leaves are yellow.

The Neighbourhood of the Dead

They do not tell lies, only the fog does.
They do not feel bored, only the shade does.
They do not come late, only death does.
They do not live, only the watch does.
But we do not control the watch:
neither I, nor the fog,
neither the shade, nor death!

You have been my neighbour for years,
but I don’t know you.
Your room lightens and darkens,
your plants are blooming,
decorations change according to feast days,
and your grass is green and free from dandelion.
You are alive, then!
You are alive
in this cemetery.

So That I May See

If I were snow scattered in the eye of the street
I would have been able to see.
If I were ice melting in my house
leaving drops in the air and on the stairs…
but a phantom is only an apparition of something unreal.

O fog,
take away my eye reflected on the tiles
and spread out its petals with a piece of news.
Take away my face veiled with marginal intentions
and take away my feeling lukewarm with thunder and empty jars.
Take away the mirage-like thing that needs neither truth nor echo
after it has been criss-crossed by spiders
busy reaching a clearer definition.
Take away my intimacy for I am its sick image,
and put it next to a box and a cup of water.

Do not forget my dreams,
pour them out like water into the sea
for land has a frightful caring attention.
Do not heed my heart, walled in the garden
of a holiday
as it is hit by the ball of a child’s feelings
whose shoes flew in the air
then thudded like a stone into deep sleep.

O my fog,
concealed in the lowlands
where I lost all my heartbeats,
if you wish,
take away my childhood oars with all their treasures,
and take away my rhythms on the waterfall’s strings.
But leave me a deceived heart
in the shell.
Only the dead are everyone’s friends.

My sight has been cut
by blossoms of both doubt and certainty,
and nothing remains of this skeleton
but the bone of faithfulness.
So, beware, you awesome fog.


Lower your wing, you captive,
for you are not a victim.
White almond blossoms do not last
and snow feels guilty.
Lower your eyes
for the sky is clouded by delusion
and there is no chance to pierce the expance.

And don’t throw your heart away, my friend,
to be whipped by the waves.
Pretend you are sick
and die sitting in the desert-
perhaps it will be happy with its thorns.
Let your head fall and roll,
and your language scatter into crumbs.
-A word is like the earth-
Therefore, plunge into the sunset
so that you may rise behind it.

From Taj ‘ala al-Haffa (A Crown on the Edge)
Beirut: Dar al-Farabi, 2004.