Abbas Beydoun


The difficulty of passing between the chest thumps
as the beat swallows and then throws us back again
into the world, maybe on the same bed
that choked with the smell of our socks.
The difficulty of passing between the floors in front
of the hookers’ rooms, where we’re robbed of
our only desire and equalized with the creaking
iron in the studio’s lock, for we don’t know
what stuck to us as we ascended, and what
the maids left in our bedchambers.

. . . But as we take off our clothes along with the clownish
titles and the multi-colored feather hats that were thrown
upon us, the wrong name would still stick
like an artificial hand, and we may wait naked
for a while before our bodies are returned back to us.
We are extracted from our souls and given birth to in dirty
hotels where patience has the only dominion, patience that
throws us to the end of the world and the light that
no one will see, to suffocate without a sound
upon the sink’s yellowish white,
and celebrate the plastic containers. As we
expect the moaning of the passing word of fate
in the latch of the ancient door.

It’s difficult to remember, when memories
are like towels in the rooms
at the end of the corridor which is more public than
a cell, passing through names and passing through
bodies. It’s desire, then, looking so deserted in its
long socks. The black skeleton of the iron
bed against the drooping shoulders.
The rose, sealed like a fingerprint on its stem
against the turned head on the pillow.
It’s difficult to remember, when rain
calls like lost clouds, and when we do or don’t
hear the punctured radiator taking off
again like a consumptive lung. Hear or don’t
hear the clang of the loud chest
thumps or the beat that falls
into boredom. And from the ribs we hear that
second voice: “There’s no need for more, no
need for more in one day.”

What happens in the van-goghian sky
that’s glimmering with solar suffocations, when
a third colour is added. It’s either Cinderella’s
shoe thrown away by the storm or
a nipple made erect by the cold. A third
colour is the body that descends from among
the thumps of the clouds, when they are plucked out
of our beings and we are born on a rotten bed with
the feather hats and the dry laurels,
and this body that was imprisoned with us.

He listens to the artery under her tongue.
He hears the vein and the duplicate pulse.
He hears the heart tripled by desire and thinks “I
have no heart,” “I have no heart.” “My air can’t
keep me afloat.” “I have no body.”
A magnified moment whose explosions won’t
reach me.

Water overflowed from the coffee pot putting out
the flame. Rain stopped. He won’t dig out
the grand attack in his chest.
He’ll only feel out his torso, taut
like a fork on the bed. Two bodies,
perpendicular, no overlap, enough space
for a missing beat. A cross, incomplete.
A body dies on another, of course. Says,
“I have no soul.” It could be the deception of
fireworks that will spread out and then diminish while
I finish my coffee. These are rain preparations of course.
A broken flower in a vase and nothing’s left of
that name that seemed as clear as a bait or
a heart beat. Nothing’s left. The loudest
of the chest thumps, the loudest of the clouds’
thumps and the wretched voice whispering
once again from among the ribs: “There’s no need
for more. There’s no need for more in one


Papers I find when rummaging through my
drawers never stop and when I think it’s all over they
keep coming back again. They must have come from distant
places, totally empty places. They travelled
for years, and not in vain. They may be
returning letters that lost
their return addresses and no one bothered to grant them
a passport. They may be the scary predictions
I uttered once, whose expiration date is yet
to come: suicide proclamations and terrifying warnings
that were never seen through. They could be my father’s responses,
with whom I’d started a posthumous dialogue.
The distance between two boats is itself a boat too.

Silence is not just another death even if
we’re exhausted, hopping between its seconds.
Many papers I don’t know where they came from
but they suffer for sure in order to make us
understand. We’re troubled by their appearance, as if they were
asking us to pay a debt the size of our lives, or suing us
in a case about which we know nothing. They nag us the way
amnesia does, repeating the only name
it can hardly pronounce. They could be an obscure
transmission, or maybe the poem that was lost
from my drawers a minute ago.

Souls of volumes removed without regret from
the library that became a blank in my
imagination. Titles trying to come back but
what we don’t forget is what wasn’t realized: wishes
and desires we were too indolent to pursue and which
we find years later as papers empty
of regrets and desire in our drawers; or
despotic desires that persist until they
get tired and leave us as blank letters to
no one. Blank papers among others
that are drafts. The lost poems
and the caesuras between the piano strokes
or switching boats for free,
the distance between two bodies is
itself a body too.

From the poet’s collection A Woodcutter-Like Tree
[Shajarah Tushbih Hattaaban], Dar Al-Adaab, 2005

Abbas Beydoun

was born in Tyre, Lebanon in 1945. He graduated in Arabic Literature from the Lebanese University, Beirut.
He has eight collections of poetry and one novel. His work has been translated into several European languages, including selected poems in Italian, a volume in German translation, his epic poem Tyre in French, and a volume of essays. He is presently cultural editor of As-Safir newspaper in Beirut and pens many articles critical of hypocrisy, Arab politics and fundamentalism.
In Banipal 21 Abbas Beydoun writes about his LITERARY INFLUENCES. In Banipal 29, an excerpt from his novel Tahleel Dumm [Blood Test] is featured, translate by Max Weiss.


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