One has learned to allow a tiny space in the head for contingency.
Yet, losses befall suddenly
– of the river and the date palms that used to balance
of the friends circling your glass like a crescent.

Then you in one moment peel yourself of whom you love
and alone, dim-sighted, grope your way home,
the light of the street lamps heavier than darkness
the burden of exile than in memory.

Tantalizing ourselves with hope
shielding ourselves against…but the question in the middle
of exiles suddenly attacks:
– What have you chosen?

No longer trusting ourselves
about to desert the self,
annihilated in God’s self,
or prefer to watch, like a trap,
the tripwires of another.

[10 April 2000]


When exile took us by surprise,
a surgeon ready-scrubbed
he treated us with scalpels
cleansed us of the dream tumours in our organs,
and pushed us into the last scene of the shadow theatre
in order that we perform for him our secondary roles

Who are we? Fury of a blind man
being led by a thread of loss,
dice thrown on the night’s page
without even an echo of their

[11 April 2002]

Jayyusi’s Modern Arabic Poetry, or Nathalie Handal’s The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology (New York/Northampton: Interlink Books, 2001.)

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