Walid Al-sheikh

Is like heartbreak
It's like the allure of women just back from a dance
their hips swaying
their sweat like rosewater
Red flags in a desert
that worships God in silence

It's like the folly of a fleeing gazelle
which seeing the lion distracted
stops to nibble grass in its final moments

Like a mischievous child, avoiding his homework
and scampering to his mother for kisses
to be startled instead by a slap
he'll never forget

Like the bleating of a lonesome woman
offering her breast to the sky
planting in her belly woodland trees
which bear no fruit

It's stagnant puddle
A waterfall of innocence
The precepts of philosophers slain for their wisdom
Poor women
in new outfits
venturing into the salons of refined conversation
oohing and aahing ever so politely at the guests' every gesture

It's a shepherd's flute
in a field of deferred questions
with which he offers his intercession to God
A guillotine shying away from Dostoevsky's head
A prophet performing miracles before a crowd of unbelievers
who are put to shame
It's like the shrewdness of a bedouin who wraps himself in a cloak
and sees women as desert gazelles, free for the taking

It's the ache of orphans on the morning of al-Adha feast
some commotion in the dark
between the bodies of a man and a woman
It's a defiant boy
who nursed at a stranger's breast
was brought up by a pretty women
and clung to his dream

It's the flicker of a candle
suddenly revealing white shores
The misery of an abandoned soul
A scrap from a mourning banner
Evening drenched in loneliness
The possibility of transfiguration far beyond this universe

It's Baudelaire's uneasiness in his black girl's bed
Some additional comments inscribed on a tombstone
Hoarse chants demanding mulberry leaves
What the angels have snatched up to keep for themselves
Village roads lined with sweet basil
scorched by a genius' words
Keepsake photos of an old soldier
It’s all the sin of the world faced with a test of purity
And it is kohl, too
gracing the eye of the sun

Translated to English by S.V. Atallah from the Arabic
Appeared in Rattapallax 7
Written 1999


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