A Million Women are your Mother
O forest that my body has set on fire,
disregard what can't be disregarded,
whisper your hidden rustle
into my mouth, into my ears,
and into my pores;
reveal your rebellion
in the perforated dome
of a collapsing body.
Isn't winter harsh? Aren't time and snow,
rain and storms, too?
But oh, how beautiful they are
as they go away.
I didn't know that forgetfulness has legs,
yet it comes and goes like an unruly horse
waiting for the bronze-colored rose to fall
from the top of the branches.
If the rose falls on the horse's back,
the horse will fly away with it;
if it falls between its legs,
the horse will kick it.
O forest that has blossomed in my body,
don't be afraid.
I've hidden my soul in you
or between two cracks as strong as armies
(although armies don't know us and don't care).
Plunge your head into me,
until our bones almost intertwine.
Let us be next to each other,
interlaced like the heart's duality.
Touch me as God would touch the clay
and I will turn into a human being in a flash.
How can I escape, sweetheart,
when my heart's fire runs in all directions,
in speech and in silence,
so that you may be born a million times
in ages of greater strangeness.
O my blond forest, unite your fear
and mine strongly;
let your bones enter the tunnel of my bones,
then pull the remainder of your body in
There will be long, narrow passages
in front of you, and Truth lies in the narrowest.
Take care and don't forget that you're going there
and not to bend.
Behold, the ghosts of the world are advancing,
and steal a look from the cracks of windows
Whenever a god passes, applaud him
or climb on the edges of trucks
and shout: the moon's blood is from his blood
and its flesh is from his fabric.
But when will you come
so that I may tell you secretly
who the real god is?
The harsh rain was singing a military march
and shooting its bullets at the roots.
(How were you born in the midst of that fight?)
O God, command the valley
to take us to the original fountain,
and the mountain to take us to the real summit.
If the great darkness flees from the whip
and Truth lies flat on the executioner's floor
and the alphabet turns into unfair laws
and the poets turn into dust on the tables,
I will fold up my time and hide it in my bosom.
And if I see my shadow, I will think I am crawling
in order to gnaw on the dry bread of famine.
But two feet of stone can't walk.
Behold, noon is like hard concrete
and the spears of ice cut through the limbs.
Souls that taste like bread are crunched by the air.
A million women are your mother, my little one,
and they untie the string
of the horizon for you so that
death may become temporary, like sleep.
Let us dig up the slaves and bondsmen,
and let us bury the masters of hunger;
and fountains have opened their white mouth
and sent forth their tragic call.
(How terrible giving up the soul is!)
Yet the fountains leave geranium
and damascene roses in their trace.
What angry power is it
that tears out the fetuses from our wombs?
Let that flood
weave the bed of our loneliness.
What will its beast do upon stumbling
while the winter, like an eagle,
beats it with its wings?
In its body are millions of waves,
a chronic eagerness for the earth,
while the drowning mariners
come out of the gates of Time's water
with a sharper vision,
the lines of their ribs visible on their back,
and they say:
the forests that have entered the sea
will bear leaves again
because their heart does not die.
Thus, when Time locks its door to everyone,
I will enter the train of death, pleased;
I will hold the string of absence and pull it,
and my imaginary self will come,
my self that was born of the wombs of mirrors
with their frightening and obscure words.
But frightened bodies secrete what will save them,
and, behold, the door of peace opens
between Paradise and the Earth.
Life alone can take us away and return us.
Death has perished
and worm have become extinct.
The human stone is split so that
new generations will be born.
As for me,
I will withhold the eggs of reproduction
in my womb
to live thus as virgins,
so that spring may not be pressed
by force into the spray of bullets.
translated from the Arabic by Issa J. Boullata