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AL-QAIS, Imru’ (Amru)

Stopping by the Ruins

I drew the tow side-locks of her head toward me; and she leant toward me;

She was slender of waist, and full in the ankle.

Thin-waisted, white-skinned, slender of body,

Her breast shining polished like a mirror.

In complexion she is like the first egg of the ostrich—white, mixed with yellow.

Pure water, unsullied by the descent of many people in it, has nourished her.

She turns away, and shows her smooth cheek, forbidding with a glancing eye,

Like that of a wild animal, with young, in the desert of Wajrah.

And she shows a neck like the neck of a white deer;

It is neither disproportionate when she raises it, nor unornamented.

And a perfect head of hair which, when loosened, adorns her back

Black, very dark-colored, thick like a date-cluster on a heavily-laden date-tree.

Her curls creep upward to the top of her head;

And the plaits are lost in the twisted hair, and the hair falling loose.

And she meets me with a slender waist, thin as the twisted leathern nose-rein of a camel.

Her form is like the stem of a palm-tree bending over from the weight of its fruit.


Good morning, consumed ruins

Good morning! consumed ruins. Can anyone be happy who lived in ages passed?

Can anyone be happy except for one fortunate enough to live to ripe age - little of cares, he does not pass the night in fear

Can anyone be happy whose most recent time was thirty months in the last three years?

Obliterated encampment belonging to belonging to Salma in Dhu Khal where the black clouds rain continuously.

You think that Salmi is still watching a young, wild antelope or eggs in the frequented river-bed.

You think that Salma is still, as in our time, at Wadi al-Khuzama or Rass Awcal.

Night with Salma during which she showed you well -set teeth and a neck like that of an antelope, not unadorned.

Did not Basbasah claim today that I had grown old and that men like me could sport well no longer ?

You lied; for I have beguiled a man's bride from him and have protected my bride so that the bachelor cannot even be suspected of beguiling her.

How many days and nights have I made love to a yielding girl, sculpted like a statue's lines.
How many days and nights have I made love to a yielding girl, sculpted like a statue's lines.

Her face lights up the bed for her partner like the oil lamp in the stands of a wick-maker.

As though on her breast were live coals that had hit thick tamarisk, surrounded by its roots.

A wind blew upon it in a place of different road-signs - an east and north wind in the encampments of those coming back from journeys.

Many a one like you, white of teeth, soft and playful has made me forget my shirt when I stood up.

When her partner takes her clothes off she yields to him, moving gently and lightly.

Like the curve of the sand-hill over which walk two children, enjoying its softness to the touch and compliance.

She has a finely curved waist, not gross, when she turns, quivering; nor is she heavy on her feet

I perceived her camp fire - from Adhrucat, though her people were at Yathrib - the nearest part of her encampment was high-up to look at.

I gazed at it while the stars were like the lamps of monks set alight for returning travellers.

I went up to her after her people had gone to sleep, as bubbles of water climb - little by little.

She said "May God estrange you; you will disgrace me -do not you see the night - conversers and people around me”.

I said,"I swear by God, I shall remain sitting here, even should they behead me and dismember me in front of you."

I swore to her - the oath of the adulterer, invoking God's name,that they were asleep and that there was no talk and no-one by the fire.

When we had conversed and she became tractable, I pulled to myself a compliant branch with many twigs loaded with fruit.

We proceeded to the beautiful and our talk became soft.

I broke her and she eventually submitted, though refractory


The Wolf

How many times have I set forth

with a bent back

and a waterskin slung on my shoulder?

How many valleys have I crossed—

lands barren as an ass’s belly

where the wolf howls

in its dire need?

Once when I heard that howl

I offered a reply:

“We’re hard up, you and I,

brothers in destitution.

Whatever we lay hold of

we soon let slip away:

times are always lean

for those who sow like us.”

Translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid

From “The Suspended Ode”

Stop Remember Weep

for the one I loved and the place we would meet

where the sands thin between al-Dakhool and Hawmal

Traces are still there at Toodih and Miqraa

woven by the north wind and the south wind

The morning she left

everyone saddled up by the acacia stand

while I cut bitter colocynth

My companions reined in their mounts

don’t be a baby they said to me

take it like a man etcetera

But tears are my medicine

so where in these ruins is a place I can cry

Weeping is what I do

before this it was Umm Huwayrith

before that it was Rabab her neighbor at Ma’sal

When they stood up musk breathed out

like an eastern breeze carrying the scent of cloves

So many fine days you had with them

but especially that day at Juljul

That was the day I butchered my camel for the virgins

they were very merry

loading shares into their saddles

They tossed the meat back and forth

and the fat was like unraveling strands of Damascene silk

Another day I went in to the howdah

it was Unizah’s howdah

Damn you she shrieked

Get down or I’m walking

Then she simpered as the swaying howdah

swayed us into each other’s arms

poet you’re chaffing my mount

please go down please

Keep riding I said

let go of the reins

don’t push me away from your musky fruit

You’re not the first one I’ve visited at dusk

while she was big bellied and nursing

whom I helped to forget the newborn hung with amulets

When he cried behind her she turned one half to suckle

but the other half

the one beneath me

stayed where it was

Another day in back of the dunes she refused me

and swore an oath she could not break

Enough my darling

if you’re going to cut the cords then do it

but do it gently

Were you wrong about me

my love for you is killing me

whatever you say is what my heart does

When your eyes well up arrows hit my heart

I am like a camel submitting to slaughter

One night I crept past her brothers’ tents

they would like to boast of killing me

and arrived at her chamber

The Pleiades flashed in the sky

like gemstones in a whirling kilt

I went in

she had taken off all her clothes

except her nightgown

So I took her out for a walk

and she dragged a heavy skirt behind us

erasing our prints

We left her people’s camp

and headed for the open desert

dim hollows and twisting sands

I pulled her down by her sidelocks

she bent over me

slim hips and big ankles

She is lean and blazingly white


her breasts shine like a mirror

She turns and shows a smooth cheek

a wary eye

this mother gazelle at Wajra


Translated by Robyn Cresswell