Other Language
Translated by: Khaled Mattawa

Poets draw nature before it prefigures itself
and they invent
and build a hut abandoned by a gang of thugs.

They sing sometimes
and they form a road so water can take the shape of a river.
They instill in mud the memory of the trees.
A bird discovers its colors in the phrases of a poem,
and picks its rare name.

When poets leave sleep behind
the young thugs begin their rampage.
They romp a little
and they throng as if nature is ambushing them.
They storm and they thunder.
And their limbs begin to thin as if the seasons
were all about to start,
as if childhood selected its shapes suddenly,
and eyes
gaze only at the perseverance of nature.

And the young thugs commit their sins
sip by sip
the way poems clash against the triumph of time.
Creatures offer gifts
and take their tempting shapes
as if a tongue made creation.
And people, still startled by their inception,
face the thin ice adorning their mirrors to see
what the poets have done to our feeble dreams.

Poetry maligns speech
and the young thugs commit forgivable sins
the way an infant scratches a breast then weeps to
it the way a text breaks its intentions.
Then the apple of love descends
enamoring a woman with a lost lover,
the way the wolf divulges the myth of the bloody shirt
and the innocent brothers confess their crime
and nature forgives a careless creator then praises him.


KHALED MATTAWA was born in Libya in 1964 and emigrated to the USA when he was 15. In 1995-96 he was Alfred Hod der Fellow at Princeton University. In 1998 he was awarded a Guggenheim Po etry Fellowship, the first time ever to an Arab-American. Ilispoetry has appeared in many US magazines. He has translat ed many Arab poets into English and won the University of Arkansas Press Award for Arabic Literature in Transla tion.

Translated by Khaled Mattawa From Naqd aL-Amal. Dar aL-Kunooz al-Adabiya, Beirut 1998