Muhammad Afifi Mattar

Translated by Ferial Gbazoul
and Desmond OGrady
(Modern Arabic Poetry- An Anthology-
edited by Salma Khadra Jayyusi)

This sun wears a live chemise of blood.

A wound gapes from its kneecap, wide as the wind
And horizons gush blood-springs revealing birds and palmtrees.
Peace, it stays until nightfall . . . Peace
The river women rise:
Anklets of grass twist circlets of
Silver and silt, desire wet with the water's foam;
The river women call to the birds,
With shawls wipe the glass horizon.
They weep, they shed newly warmed sorrow.
Peace, it stays until nightfall . . . Peace.
The fields folded their knees.
The ploughsocks softened, relaxed.
The serpents slept.
A pall of peace piles up: Downy hay and plume.
The bulls, standing, slumbered.
In their absent phosphoric eyes, night stars shatter.
Peace; that mask of merciful night.
The living half una wakened, the mortal half slept.
This earth seemed empty.
When the night's prayer was recited and the dream angels came,
When sleep like the sun rose with its green radiance of rebirth, its sign of illumination,
Then, by His mercy, I shed the diurnal limbs and opened a window in the mortal half;
I enfolded myself in the living half And the vision erupted:
I stepped out of the sheets' patterns and the pillows' perfume.
Have the covers left their bold arboreal designs on my face?
My face's become flying leaves, falling fruit, sprouting twigs.
An imperial mare rises in my father's house:
Space is folded for her.
The silver, the flashes of her hoofs are the lights of Granada and those lands beyond the River.
The mercury and kohl of her eyes mirror a blaze of royal ruins.
My form floats from my dream's body. I glow.
Trees spread through my face like traceries,
Freshly green tears inscribe springs and crescents of water on my features.
My form floats from my dream's body:
The star Canopies looks a trembling flower in the eyelet of the heart.
Life's blood-dimmed springs are loosed. Horses rise from the Amma of the Book, The circumference of the earth expands.
Peace, it stays until sunrise . . . Peace.
My knees grip a lodge on the horizon's ledge.
In my face crowd the lightning of writing, green leaves and water.
(The letters, a nation among nations, are addressed and entrusted.)
The birds broke out from the dome of the wind as a well breaks out.
I remember . . . it's the horizon's divan.
My body is a lodge. I reign in what's not mine, what's not others'.
I remember . . . beneath me runs that river of living images;
And the springs sported as I wished.
I remember . . . the earth's globe approached and the heavens came to me.
They exchanged garments.
The mixing of memory's creatures and the marriage of what's not male with what's female;
what's not female with what's male,
And the joys of earthly powers
Gave me the strength to conjure with the sources of memory's shattered images.
I conjured delicacies, images and chants as I wished.
The pause in the Be of the Book lingered.
joy filled with tender questions,
And the foliage of the face dropped with fresh fears
and the buds of discovery's bewilderment.
I knew I walked the way of Ascension. I dwelt in the lodge of ultimate certitude.
The circumference of the earth expanded.
The heavens appear as garments ripping
at the waistline of the living river,
A window beneath the garments of the oceans gapes open.
The Oriental Sages, the Hermetists and Gnostics partake of the banquet of luminous dialogue.

Al-Suhrawardi breathes in the fullness of space, divides bread and
the silvery fish of the Nile. He eats in the plenitude of anarchy
and drinks in the profusion of ceaseless emanation .
The Hermetists weave the cape of chants and enchantments.
They unfold it for the noble tribe, the beasts and the birds as a resting,
sheltering space for initiating and linking creatures
twice, thrice, four times and up to the last number memory may retain.
Rising from sleep the river women reveal bronzed legs, silt and earthy grass.
Peace, it stays until sunrise . . . Peace.
A mare whinnies in my father's house.
My father's house is a nomad in my dream's body.
The two Euphrates read like a book of rising blood And the Nile is a book.
The Ocean pulls off the garments of diffused blood.
Then the desert's dressed, the large land and the cracked ruins adorned by the splendor of lightning,
by the green life of fire.
The sun penetrates the flanks of night with purple gloves
and stockings of hammered and unhammered gold.
It rises and falls.
He descends to the murmur of vermin, the clinging of insects, the slither Of reptiles.
The steps shorten.
I rapped myself in the tatters of the diurnal half.
The smell of nocturnal sleep spread
And the woolen covers heaved.
The wet cotton covers collapsed.
Peace, a spider of blood, clothed by the features' similarity Peace.
Water drains from the body.
Memory drains from the water.

Al-Suhrawardi: Shihab al-Din Yahya ibn Habash, known as "The Slain." He was a famous mystic of the second half of the twelve century, who lived in Baghdad and then Aleppo, where he was under the patronage of its viceroy, a]-Malik al-7,ahir, son of the famous Saladdin. However, al-Zahir e entually put him to death when al-Surawardi was only thirty-six, bee use his original vsticism tendered him suspect to orthodox believers. AI_Surawardi bey- lieved in the agreement of all religions and all philosophies, which, phheilionssoisptheedr,s ebxepfroerses hoinmi one single truth. He was a student of the major Greek and other The most characteristic attribute of his work was his metaphysics of spiritual light, hich he regarded as a symbol of emanation and as the fundamental reality of things. He evewn based his proof of the existence of God upon this symbol.



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