Bassam Hajjar

بسام حجاA few things I alone know
He said he was tired
that he had come to his final days,
so he found delight in nothing.
He said daylight hurt his eyes,
dust irritated his lungs,
and that he stayed in his room
sitting on the edge of his bed, his head bowed,
his hands on his hips to support himself.
He said he was tired
and not able to walk in the street
since breathing was a strain,
as if he'd grown used to a kind of suffocation
and was content with as much air
as would not keep the canary alive, dead from the cold.
He said spring
just about killed him,
and the dog days of summer,
and the winter, bitter cold and wet, 
and autumn, season of wailing and lamentation,
and that he didn't know why the chill wouldn't leave 
his limbs.
He said: "Take the ring
it is all I own, 
that and the fountain pen.
Now wrap me up in woollen blankets,
give me your face to kiss
and your hands
for I might well not see you tomorrow."
He said he was tired and couldn't sleep;
that the night was a frightening wilderness.
These minutes or hours may be the last.
So he rises and walks in the hallway,
drinks a mouthful of water,
and the tumult of his heavy wheezing keeps him company,
as if his wheezes spoke to him
like the children or the neighbours or friends over drinks
or casual meetings during an evening stroll,
and he wouldn't pray
but said:  "I loved whom I loved
and whoever loved me gave me happiness I did not deserve.
I was alive and the death in my lungs was 
a pain and a cough,
and I lived with the smallest bit 
of air and pleasure.
I watered the climbing plants until they reached 
the ceiling.
I put the canary in its cage,
fed him seeds and water to drink
and he died despite me
and I cried for three days. 
No one will inherit the hardship of living as I have,
asthma pains and the bare means.
I made time to wait for my final hour.
I told no one
but stayed to wait.
I told her when she came towards me
let me rest my tired head on your chest
and I didn't tell her I wanted to cry
but I cried.
A few things I alone know of
made me cry.
I was not afraid.
I was not miserable,
but I cried."

was born in 1955 in Sûr (Tyre), Lebanon. He has a diploma of advanced study in philosophy from the Sorbonne. He was cultural editor on the Lebanese newspapers An-Nahar and As-Safir, and now works for Al-Mustaqbal in Beirut. Since 1980 he has published 10 collections of poetry, and translated from French several novels, poetry collections and books of philosophy and literary criticism.

Translated by Camilo Gomez-Rivas from the author's collection 'Bidha'at Ashia'a'  ['A Few Things'], Dar al-Jamal, Cologne, Germany, 1997, and  reprinted from Banipal No 9

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