March 23, 2011

America, America

God save America,
My home, sweet home!

The French general who raised his tricolor over Nuqrat al-Salman
where I was a prisoner thirty years ago …
in the middle of that U-turn that split the back of the Iraqi army,
the general who loved Saint Emilion wines called Nuqrat al-Salman a fort …
Of the surface of the earth, generals know only two dimensions:
whatever rises is a fort,
whatever spreads is a battlefield.
How ignorant the general was!

But Liberation was better versed in topography.
The Iraqi boy who conquered her front page sat carbonized behind a steering wheel
on the Kuwait-Safwan highway while television cameras
(the booty of the defeated and their identity)
were safe in a truck like a storefront on Rivoli Street.
The neutron bomb is highly intelligent.
It distinguishes between an "I" and an "Identity."

God save America,
My home, sweet home!

How long must I walk to Sacramento?
How long must I walk to Sacramento?
How long will I walk to reach my home?
How long will I walk to reach my girl?
How long must I walk to Sacramento?
For two days, no boat has sailed this stream,
Two days, two days, two days.
Honey, how can I ride?
I know this stream,
But, O but, O but,
For two days, no boat has sailed this stream.
La Li La La Li La
La Li La La Li La
A stranger becomes afraid.
Have no fear, dear horse.
No fear of the wolves of the wild,
No fear, for the land is my land.
La Li La La Li La
La Li La La Li La
A stranger becomes afraid.

God save America,
My home, sweet home!

I too love jeans and jazz and Treasure Island
and John Silver's parrot and the balconies of New Orleans.
I love Mark Twain and the Mississippi steam-boats and Abraham Lincoln's dogs.
I love the fields of wheat and corn and the smell of Virginia tobacco.
But I am not American.
Is that enough for the Phantom pilot to turn me back to the Stone Age?
I need neither oil nor America herself,
neither the elephant nor the donkey.
Leave me, pilot, leave my house roofed with palm fronds and this wooden bridge.
I need neither your Golden Gate nor your skyscrapers.
I need the village, not New York.
Why did you come to me from your Nevada desert, soldier armed to the teeth?
Why did you come all the way to distant Basra, where fish used to swim by our doorsteps?
Pigs do not forage here.
I only have these water buffaloes lazily chewing on water lilies.
Leave me alone, soldier.
Leave me my floating cane hut and my fishing spear.
Leave me my migrating birds and the green plumes.
Take your roaring iron birds and your Toma-hawk missiles.
I am not your foe.
I am the one who wades up to the knees in rice paddies.
Leave me to my curse.
I do not need your day of doom.

God save America,
My home, sweet home!

let's exchange gifts.
Take your smuggled cigarettes
and give us potatoes.
Take James Bond's golden pistol
and give us Marilyn Monroe's giggle.
Take the heroin syringe under the tree
and give us vaccines.
Take your blueprints for model penitentiaries
and give us village homes.
Take the books of your missionaries
and give us paper for poems to defame you.
Take what you do not have
and give us what we have.
Take the stripes of your flag
and give us the stars.
Take the Afghani mujahideen beard
and give us Walt Whitman's beard filled with butterflies.
Take Saddam Hussein
and give us Abraham Lincoln or give us no one.

Now as I look across the balcony,
across the summer sky, the summery summer,
Damascus spins, dizzied among television aerials,
then it sinks, deeply,
in the stones of the forts, in towers, in the arabesques of ivory,
and sinks, deeply, far from Rukn el-Din
and disappears far from the balcony.

And now
I remember trees:
the date palm of our mosque in Basra,
at the end of Basra
a bird's beak, a child's secret, a summer feast.
I remember the date palm.
I touch it. I become it, when it falls black without fronds,
when a dam fell, hewn by lightning.
And I remember the mighty mulberry
when it rumbled, butchered with an axe …
to fill the stream with leaves
and birds
and angels
and green blood.
I remember when pomegranate blossoms covered the sidewalks.
The students were leading the workers parade …

The trees die pummeled.
Dizzied, not standing, the trees die.

God save America,
My home, sweet home!

We are not hostages, America,
and your soldiers are not God's soldiers …
We are the poor ones, ours is the earth of the
drowned gods,
the gods of bulls,
the gods of fires,
the gods of sorrows that intertwine clay and
blood in a song ‥

We are the poor, ours is the god of the poor,
who emerges out of farmers' ribs,
and bright,
and raises heads up high …
America, we are the dead.
Let your soldiers come.
Whoever kills a man, let him resurrect him.
We are the drowned ones, dear lady.
We are the drowned.
Let the water come.

--- Saadi Youssef

(translated from the Arabic by Khaled Mattawa)

March 22, 2011


Seven hundred thousand women live single in Paris
Their age between thirty and forty
Unmarried, divorced, or
The voice of the announcer was so neutral
Chewing this plain number from among the many details of modern life
Closing the news with it
Seven hundred thousand single women
O man!
And for four hours you have been tormenting yourself before a computer
In search of good sentences that express hard life without a woman.

---Abdel-ilah Salhi

March 13, 2011

अपनी मर्ज़ी से कहाँ अपने सफ़र के हम हैं

अपनी मर्ज़ी से कहाँ अपने सफ़र के हम हैं
रुख़ हवाओं का जिधर का है उधर के हम हैं

पहले हर चीज़ थी अपनी मगर अब लगता है
अपने ही घर में किसी दूसरे घर के हम हैं

वक़्त के साथ है मिट्टी का सफ़र सदियों तक
किसको मालूम कहाँ के हैं किधर के हम हैं

चलते रहते हैं कि चलना है मुसाफ़िर का नसीब
सोचते रहते हैं कि किस राहगुज़र के हम हैं

गिनतियों में ही गिने जाते हैं हर दौर में हम
हर क़लमकार की बेनाम ख़बर के हम हैं.

---निदा फ़ाज़ली

हर ख़ुशी में कोई कमी सी है

हर ख़ुशी में कोई कमी सी है
हँसती आँखों में भी नमी सी है

दिन भी चुप चाप सर झुकाये था
रात की नफ़्ज़ भी थमी सी है

किसको समझायेँ किसकी बात नहीं
ज़हन और दिल में फिर ठनी सी है

ख़्वाब था या ग़ुबार था कोई
गर्द इन पलकों पे जमी सी है

कह गए हम किससे दिल की बात
शहर में एक सनसनी सी है

हसरतें राख हो गईं लेकिन
आग अब भी कहीं दबी सी है

---जावेद अख़्तर

मुमकिन है सफ़र हो आसान

मुमकिन है सफ़र हो आसान, अब साथ भी चल कर देखें
कुछ तुम भी बदल कर देखो, कुछ हम भी बदल कर देखें

दो-चार कदम हर रस्ता, पहले की तरह लगता है
शायद कोई मंज़र बदले, कुछ दूर तो चल कर देखें

झूठा ही सही ये रिश्ता, मिलते ही रहे हम यूँ ही
हालात नहीं बदलें , चेहरे ही बदल कर देखें

सूरज की तपिश भी देखी, शोलों कि कशिश भी देखी
अबके जो घटाएं छायें, बरसात में जल कर देखें

अब वक़्त बचा है कितना, जो और लड़ें दुनिया से
दुनिया की नसीहत पर भी थोडा सा अमल कर देखें.

---निदा फ़ाज़ली

She walks in beauty

She walks in beauty like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to the tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One ray the more, one shade the less
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress
Or softly lightens o'er her face,
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.

And on that cheek and o'er that brow
So soft, so calm yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow
But tell of days in goodness spent
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent.

--- George Gordon, Lord Byron

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.

--- George Gordon, Lord Byron (from Childe Harold, Canto iv, Verse 178)

Break, break, break

Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

O, well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanished hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags, O sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.

---Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

In Memoriam A. H. H. , Section 5

I sometimes hold it half a sin
To put in words the grief I feel;
For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.

But, for the unquiet heart and brain,
A use in measured language lies;
The sad mechanic exercise,
Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.

In words, like weeds, I'll wrap me o'er,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold;
But that large grief which these enfold
Is given outline and no more.

---Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Tennyson wrote In Memoriam, which consists of 133 sections; A. H. H. stands for Arthur Henry Hallam. Hallam was a close friend of Tennyson's who was also engaged to Tennyson's sister. He died before the wedding at the age of 22.

हर हक़ीक़त मजाज़ हो जाये

हर हक़ीक़त मजाज़ हो जाये
काफ़िरों की नमाज़ हो जाये

मिन्नत-ए-चारासाज़ कौन करे
दर्द जब जाँ नवाज़ हो जाये

इश्क़ दिल में रहे तो रुसवा हो
लब पे आये तो राज़ हो जाये

लुत्फ़ का इन्तज़ार करता हूँ
जोर ता हद्द-ए-नाज़ हो जाये

उम्र बेसूद कट रही है 'फ़ैज़'
काश अफ़्शा-ए-राज़ हो जाये.

---फ़ैज़ अहमद फ़ैज़