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from the May 2019 issue

Repentance

Wistfulness meets indignation in Abdulaziz al-Omairi’s poetic meditation on abandonment and forgiveness.
 

You did not know

that every time Fairuz sings to the dawn         on my way toward hurt 

you emerge from the melody

to reset sorrow ablaze

only to depart like the years gone by

taking my joy with you.

 

I waved my hand like a child

whose mother vanished out of sight

his feet rooted beneath the doorway          forgetting

his waving arm to the wind.

His desert days turned to shriveled years . . .           he was lost.

 

Beneath sorrow’s shade he gazed upon you 

with hands raised to the stars.

You never returned.

He continued to study you, with drowsy eyes . . .       but you never returned.

He drifted from madness to guilt

and finally, to numbness 

to go on to          on to . . .

He remembered nothing but your face

dawning in his eyes each time he fell asleep. 

There you are in a Matrah night

crossing memory between the crowds.

 

Tell me . . .

Who was it that cast you down my back alleys, a dream and a dove?

Believe me, you know

nothing has changed

since you left this dream to the mercy of years.          Do not go!

The Matrah night asks the night about you.

 

Pain strums for you the tune of mafaʿilun:

 

On the outskirts of longing, remembering 

            the land of desire, barren

I stood breathing in the dearth, 

            humming the last of my melodies.

 

            I remained with nothing 

but memory’s matchstick, frozen

            I stoked within me memory of the years

 and all my maladies. 

 

I huddled in sorrow beside the warmth of my wound, 

            with no other person

alone in solitude’s embrace, 

            my other half, completing me.

 

            Deprived, knowing only 

days betrayed by roses, Mariam,

            I turn out the light 

to hide my face so none can see.

 

I agreed to abandon your days 

            and our dreams, a losing hand.

While the fortune-teller cried 

            over my cup filled with atrocities 

 

            I arrived at your door seeking an embrace, 

but your cold eyes had soon spoken.

            I dragged my despair in tow 

while time wove my funeral tapestries.

 

May fear be banished 

            to betray the story and emotion.

When will Loss, the true sinner, 

            sign off on my apologies?

 

Do you see what happens when           the mind drifts away?

And what becomes of poetry?

A refrain of faʿilatun faʿilat.

 

You are you.

You leave fear in your wake and depart in silence.          If only you knew

how your poet lost his way . . . his friends to blame.

He began to stray the day before his betrayal had begun 

in the midst of tragedy         nowhere else,

and after I betrayed you . . . I awoke!

 

My chest began to tighten

as guilt streamed from my eyes.

Between my face and the dark

I would see you

and the rain wash clean our sorrowful streets.

When the world was sorrow I

remembered you

remembered you

remembered you

with a thousand sorrows . . .           I remembered you!

Only to face my guilt, alone again,

to choke behind my walls and perish

counting regretful days, coffin by coffin.

Every time I tried to doze off,

resting my head on the remnants of desire,

you would emerge from bygone years

like a scourge of guilt in a moment of clarity.          Forgive me . . .

for all the times regret returned to the past 

to knock on its door.
 

"استغفار" © Abdulaziz al-Omairi. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Rawad Wehbe. All rights reserved.

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