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::POETRY IN DIALOGUE::

HUSSAIN BARGHOUTHI

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MIRROR NINE

(excerpt from poetry book “liquid mirrors”)

Translated into english by Athar Barghouthi, to Norwegian by Vibeke Harper

Read by Nils Ole Oftebro in Norwegian, by Eid Aziz in arabic.

When she told him that she’s not his until he wrote “the poem in her mind”,

he tried to sense what she meant, so he recorded all his previous poems on a tape,

and stayed in hope that she’d like something from them.

So the director protested from a completely unexpected angle:

“A black soul. Your poetry is a black river surrounding the earth like a bracelet,

so carve these poems on a silver pendent, hang it on your neck in confession…

that you are negative”.

Perhaps the poem in her mind is about “love”,

without dispossession, without death, without condemnation. He thought.

And after a while, he entered the studio with a stick in his right hand

and a silver frame in his left; a rectangular mirror in it, and above the mirror,

in a smaller rectangle, a piece of cloth from black silk on which was “embroidered”,

in a Kufi font that was hard to read, a poem about her that was inspired from… she didn’t listen. She hung it on the concrete walls of the hall in the studio. It was night. In the studio

It was night. She read, with a candle in her hand; its flame shaking in the rectangular mirror:

“I dreamt you.

Your eyes sanctuaries for guardians, a sanctuary visited in loyalty to vows,

and lamps are lit inside,

With the oil of rituals, and another floats on water in my dream, 

and illuminates things for me. Love amazes me in both cases:

when it visits and when it is visited

It’s as if you are a higher context of what I lost, and it comes back to me,

when the curtains open

And your hands are a stairs

of bricks. I climb it and it breaks me, my body falls as glass,

and my soul rises

as perfumes,

And some rising is descension, and some rising is collapse

And not everyone saw you as my vision, the blind is not of guilt!

And some eyes are ash, and some eyes are bedazzlement

I dreamt you.

Your hair was a stained glass sky 

It is unfelt, untouched, and brightens the floor, and was not touched by fire

Its light is premonition(4), and I wipe my eyes with love so I can see it,

so my blindness is washed away 

And some eyes are mirrors, and some mirrors are dust”.

He was listening to silence, his stick in his hand.

The montage screen in front of him, him on a black seat.

She read on, silently. She took him by the hand, silently, and walked out with him.

Rain over the blackness of the asphalt. Small ponds in which lights glistening.

In the spray she sees her face broken. She told him:

you’ve started to understand what’s in my mind.

You see my hair “a stained glass sky”,

(why did she assume the poem was about her? Thought the editor)

I imagine it exactly: blue, yellow, red and green, dark colored at night,

stars shining from behind it and illuminating the earth with a thin light.

Long ago, in gothic churches, the windows of stained glass

were of a geometric shape of 12 sides, so they imitate the “zodiac circle” in the sky.

In the Quran, God “built” the sky, like in architectural engineering.

And my hands “a stairs of bricks”, and on them you climb

to another holy architecture: guardians’ sanctuaries.

Nice. The body has the same holy architecture of the universe.

Old philosophy, but beautiful.

We’re now in a disassembled universe, or we want to see it disassembled.

The director was appeasing him maybe, or complimenting.

If she loved a “holy universe”, with a harmonic, exquisite and divine architecture,

why does she make him work for him as an “editor”

whose only job is to “cut this part of the film”?

To “cut reality” and re-produce it and assemble it

according to her desire and imagination?

Isn’t that a violation of reality as contextualized by God,

isn’t it, in other words, a universe of “fragments” with no reality

other than that which the director considers “reality”?

And remember the saying of Mahmoud Darwish: 

“And my bones like a stick in the hand of the director, but I say:

I perfect the role tomorrow, sir

And that’s why I quit”.

Hasn’t reality become a “stick” in the hands of cinema and television companies,

and the bunches of editors and directors and financers and distributers?

And after that, intelligence agencies and spies?

What “reality” will remain of “the poem in her mind” after all that?

And of the “sky of stained glass”?

And he walked alone in the rain, leaving the director behind him.

He turned to the dark backstreet, striking the floor with his stick

like Oedipus when he left “Thebes”. 

Where to?

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THE METAMORPHOSES

Translated to English by Athar Barghouthi, to Norwegian by Terje Nordby

Read in Norwegian by Nicolay Lange-Nielsen, in Arabic by Eid Aziz 

I meant a different context,

Other than my first context, and other than my other context,

And what I will contextualize,

Other than the grass, the earth, the first kiss

And other than the other kiss,

And what I had liked, and what I like

And other than this familiar breath, other than poetry and poets,

And what this wise prophet speaks in the twitch of revelation,

I meant other than the first bank, and other than the other one,

And other than he who philosophizes, and the philosophies,

And other than the first step,

And other than the other one.

I call it metamorphosis

Call it what you wish, however you desire

It is the divergence from what you named,

And the desire for other than what you desired,

So call it: contrary dance,

Another context, I meant,

So name it: a dream, an obscure ray like green mixed with blood,

Name it!

For I meant other rays,

And something other than what I expressed

(for what I express is a summer in which our females can’t menstruate in its heat,

a sterile bird that doesn’t lay eggs, it is the acceleration of extinction here…).

I meant a pleasure of a different kind,

Something that doesn’t limit, that is not known by limits,

That is out of what I contextualize,

I meant the astonishment of a forest that flied to a star on top of a flying night,

So did you understand me, through a language chased by mosquitoes?...

Superior experiences, I meant,

I meant other than the confession in a moment of weakness,

Other than the soul’s compensations in order to be satisfied with half,

This is not of my taste, I meant,

“With other than this I arrived” 

Damned, my soul! Change…

This evening in a journey through wilderness above

The step of a blue horse that swims under a saddle of planets,

Change

Towards the neigh so the little trees crawl to a path other than this.

The paths end in my hands, o soul

Come to the wilderness

Where the free one lives as God.

Darkness is what I lit, and thorns is that which I see, so, come

Out of the familiar towards a different context…

We pass near flooding rivers, I say:

My beautiful soul, what I long for,

I mean rivers without a stream…

I don’t know how? Or where from? .. but… the god of this wilderness knows more.

That water, other than this water,

Nourishes whoever longs for it, invites me to take another swig.

Damned, my soul, let us walk

I have no time to explain what I long for,

Darkness is what it lights, two signs with no details,

“And the lion has encountered your brother Bishra”

Then I laugh: how can my soul laugh at me twice

Then laugh once again! 

It is beautiful now to love, and for things to become explicit,

We’re two butterflies on a lamp under the night in the outdoors,

Perhaps we are prisoners of it,

Perhaps we are prisoners.

We melt, body and name, of pleasure

Damned, my soul,

You say to me: “What are we in every village? And what do we desire?

What we desire is all that can be named”.

Two, liberated like the eagles, immemorial like the ages,

I am he who is in solitary with the demons and the demon

I touch in you an orbit of women’s orbits,

For what eve that I touch two times does not desire another touch?

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LAYLA WA TAWBA

(Extract from poetry book (diwan) “Layla wa Tawba”)

Translated into English by Athar Barghouthi, into Norwegian by Vibeke Harper

Read in Norwegian by Terje Nordby, in Arabic by Eid Aziz

(And Tawba has a slow walk over sunny surfaces, And a handful of wheat for the birds
And reddened eyelids after crying,
And a face like a cloth for its greenness,

And no peace comes to it, no peace comes). ...

I see you, in a splash of grey waves, as sad birds
Looking between the shores in search of Noah’s Ark.
I see you seal your wing
And, with singing, hide your wounds.
I see you a stranger in the land in which you come and go
I see you, outwardly, a mood ruined like the waves, or as a tired one’s smile

Between the beginning and finish.
And tomorrow you’re erased, as a tattoo, from over the beautiful lips
Or vanish like the rest of the henna.
And tomorrow,
Like the cultivated land in the sun,
You dry out crevice after crevice,
And open your chest towards the whiteness in the sky
And tomorrow you will cry
In mourning of a single stone
In mountains which will almost be killed by their bending.
...
And tomorrow, like a black cloak, women take you off on the chairs,
And like singing

After the end of the wedding,

You stay, an echo, inside yourself

And the convoys of your family march at morning to Egypt,

And you alone stay behind

And so take a step towards the south,

And a step towards the north,

And look for the morning words to utter them at evening.

It wasn’t living for you to say: “I’m finished”, and it wasn’t

An amour for you to say: “It’s finished”.

You were the prayer, the one prayed to and the imam,

So beautiful patience, because you...

Beautiful patience, perhaps you...

Patience, I almost kiss the mud you once walked on,

To carry the shoes instead of you

I almost descend verses of love from my heart,

And send myself

By myself, a prophet to you, for you to lift your brow,

made yellow by the tiredness of the star shining on it . . .

And wipe off sweat intermixed with belonging
with the ripping of roots from origin, intermixed with blood
So beautiful patience, o one that is beloved by the lands... and the women.