You did not know
that every time Fairuz sings to the dawn on my way toward hurt
you emerge from the melody
to reset sorrow ablaze
only to depart like the years gone by
taking my joy with you.
I waved my hand like a child
whose mother vanished out of sight
his feet rooted beneath the doorway forgetting
his waving arm to the wind.
His desert days turned to shriveled years . . . he was lost.
Beneath sorrow’s shade he gazed upon you
with hands raised to the stars.
You never returned.
He continued to study you, with drowsy eyes . . . but you never returned.
He drifted from madness to guilt
and finally, to numbness
to go on to on to . . .
He remembered nothing but your face
dawning in his eyes each time he fell asleep.
There you are in a Matrah night
crossing memory between the crowds.
Tell me . . .
Who was it that cast you down my back alleys, a dream and a dove?
Believe me, you know
nothing has changed
since you left this dream to the mercy of years. Do not go!
The Matrah night asks the night about you.
Pain strums for you the tune of mafaʿilun:
On the outskirts of longing, remembering
the land of desire, barren
I stood breathing in the dearth,
humming the last of my melodies.
I remained with nothing
but memory’s matchstick, frozen
I stoked within me memory of the years
and all my maladies.
I huddled in sorrow beside the warmth of my wound,
with no other person
alone in solitude’s embrace,
my other half, completing me.
Deprived, knowing only
days betrayed by roses, Mariam,
I turn out the light
to hide my face so none can see.
I agreed to abandon your days
and our dreams, a losing hand.
While the fortune-teller cried
over my cup filled with atrocities
I arrived at your door seeking an embrace,
but your cold eyes had soon spoken.
I dragged my despair in tow
while time wove my funeral tapestries.
May fear be banished
to betray the story and emotion.
When will Loss, the true sinner,
sign off on my apologies?
Do you see what happens when the mind drifts away?
And what becomes of poetry?
A refrain of faʿilatun faʿilat.
You are you.
You leave fear in your wake and depart in silence. If only you knew
how your poet lost his way . . . his friends to blame.
He began to stray the day before his betrayal had begun
in the midst of tragedy nowhere else,
and after I betrayed you . . . I awoke!
My chest began to tighten
as guilt streamed from my eyes.
Between my face and the dark
I would see you
and the rain wash clean our sorrowful streets.
When the world was sorrow I
with a thousand sorrows . . . I remembered you!
Only to face my guilt, alone again,
to choke behind my walls and perish
counting regretful days, coffin by coffin.
Every time I tried to doze off,
resting my head on the remnants of desire,
you would emerge from bygone years
like a scourge of guilt in a moment of clarity. Forgive me . . .
for all the times regret returned to the past
to knock on its door.
“استغفار” © Abdulaziz al-Omairi. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Rawad Wehbe. All rights reserved.