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Poetry

Near the Shrine of Saint Naum

By Najwan Darwish
Translated from Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid
Read Najwan Darwish's "Near the Shrine of Saint Naum," the third poem in the Words Without Borders—Academy of American Poets National Translation Month series, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid.
The Monastery of Saint Naum
Fif' from Paris, France, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Listen to this poem
 
 
·

I stood in the red church,
its tiny domes like buds
blossoming in stone,
I stood near the saint’s resting place
while a tourist laid her cheek on the tombstone
to hear his beating heart.
But I was no tourist,
and the saint left the room with me,
and the church the builders wrote in his memory
was nothing more
than a passing dream in his eternal sleep.

The tourists come in vain,
as do the believers.


© Najwan Darwish. Translation © 2022 by Kareem James Abu-Zeid.

English Arabic

I stood in the red church,
its tiny domes like buds
blossoming in stone,
I stood near the saint’s resting place
while a tourist laid her cheek on the tombstone
to hear his beating heart.
But I was no tourist,
and the saint left the room with me,
and the church the builders wrote in his memory
was nothing more
than a passing dream in his eternal sleep.

The tourists come in vain,
as do the believers.


© Najwan Darwish. Translation © 2022 by Kareem James Abu-Zeid.

قرب مرقد القدّيس ناعوم في مقدونيا

 
 

 
Listen to Najwan Darwish read this poem in the original Arabic

وَقَفْتُ في الكَنيسة الحَمْراء
بِقِبابِها الصَّغيرةِ مِثْلَ بَراعِمَ مُتَفَتّحةٍ في الحَجَر
وَقَفْتُ قُرْبَ مَرْقَدِ القِدّيس
السّائحةُ تَضَعُ خَدَّها على بَلاطَةِ الضَّريح لِتَسْمَعَ نَبْضَ قَلْبِه
لَسْتُ سائحاً مِثْلَها
,القِدّيسُ غادَرَ مَعي الحُجْرةَ
والكَنيسةُ التي كَتَبَها البَنّاؤون في ذِكْراه
كانت حُلُماً صَغيراً في رَقْدَتِه

عَبثاً يَصِلُ السّائحونَ
.والمُؤمِنون

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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