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Poems by British Lebanese poet Mariam Michtawi

By Mariam Michtawi -Translated from Arabic by Jake Gordon —

 

1. The Temple

 

I slept,

And the dream began…

I was walking in fear

That my legs would fail me,

Upon that journey,

The mage’s journey…

 

I knelt,

Praying

Like parched earth

I wandered through your temple,

Taking my last supper

Upon your boat

I was counting my rosary

Bead by bead,

How I wished it could be longer…

I awoke every sunset

In the season of migration

 

I slept, and the dream began…

My soul spread its wings,

And a dove took flight,

Cooing:

This is my lover of lovers

 

2. The Visitor

 

When you choose to live my madness,

I will receive you as a spoilt child,

And place you in my garden,

To pick what pleases you

Of dreams of childhood

I will feed you candy floss,

Sonnets of flowery, sugary dreams

Together, we will colour the heavens with a rainbow,

And break through the borders of your impossibility

We will soar with coloured balloons,

I will snatch some of your sweets,

And not return them to you

No, I will not remove you from the world of Sesame,

Of Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast

You will not awake Sleeping Beauty with a kiss,

And we will not return

No, we will not return…

 

3. Nymph

 

Do you know when I became a nymph?

The day I came into contact with your equator…

The fires circled my planet,

And I found nothing before me, but the pleasure of diving

Into your red sea

And now here I stand, a nymph of every colour,

Caressing your coral reef…

 

4. Farewell

 

O man from Latakia…

The sad streets of your town

Have gathered in your cases

What remains of their burnt boughs,

Then beckoned to you in farewell…

 

And you,

Like the rest of the dead, have departed

Whilst in your calm eyes,

The night begs for life

And in the silence of your tears,

A beach moves to and fro,

Choking upon each wave

There are boats with no direction,

A harbour, and the faces of all those who stand upon it

Are that of my grandmother,

And all the hands are hers

 

O man from Latakia…

Before she left, my grandmother gifted to you

Her white veil,

That you might return…

 

 

5. Whispering To You

 

Far away from my memory I limped,

Stripped myself

Of our painful moments,

And began to contemplate the sky

We started to rain together,

And its stars began

To open like eyes,

Speaking to me, between slumber and waking

Then I made my way towards them,

In my intoxication,

Whilst whispering to you

 

6. The Ceremonies Of Farewell

 

​Life has compelled me to master the ceremonies of farewell, that I might convince you that I am well. It has taught me to fear the heat beneath your lace cap, to freeze our touches and bury them in satin gloves. It has taught me how to be in love with you in secret, behind the black looks, whilst following my arrogant path in the opposite direction…

 

 

Mariam7

*Mariam Michtawi ( Arabic: مريم مشتاوي) is a Lebanese Syrian poet, writer and teacher born in Beirut from a Syrian American father and a Lebanese mother. In 2013 Mariam was confronted with the tragic loss of her young child diagnosed with cancer, this separation deeply affected her writings and inspired her to support and fundraise for children having cancer.
Mariam currently lives in London and teaches Arabic language at SOAS
(School of Oriental and African Studies), University of London where she exposes her students to poetry and contemporary Arab art.

 

 

 

 

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