translated by Lena Jayyusi
An abstract painting featuring brightly colored organic shapes overlapping
Samia Halaby, Centers of Attraction / Courtesy of the Artist.

Innocent when questioned, quick to take flight
   when afraid,
magnet for the heart
   approaching like a Nazarene lamb
You sleep
   “I do not tire, I do not turn away, I do not

You run off, fleeing from injury,
   “stretch out, horizon, I am limbs that will not

You run off,
   “my face, a gazelle that migrates
   my body, a gazelle that dances

You run off, I run off,
   sink into love, all presence
      a tent that does not stay put
      I hoist my home across the horizon,
      raise my signposts in the wind

You give home to the lost,
   a stranger beyond limit
      intimate as the body’s vein
a level field
   we ascend toward you, and you do not weary
   we descend upon you, and you are untouched
vast heart,
   I dove into your spaces to the point of
   and you are unaware

Your stars fold over me the memory of my love
   who died
      my love who never dies
memory stretches out across my vision
I sleep,
   it gives leaf in dream.
I wake,
   a loved one’s face across each door
your twilight, a searching eye
   we watch how the houses light up
      with their folks
      how friends arrive
      bring life to corners
      how the ceremonies begin
   we see how the houses settle down
      their lanterns raised
      their children roaming

Your night is mute
your sun fiercer than any I have known
   gentle-eyed gazelle
your breeze is hotter than drunken fits of grief
your full moon
      the most naked of moons
your twilight a cavern
      I sit at its threshold without moving
      my gaze on the distance
large black eyes cross my path
the thoroughbred beckons, and the dark-browed
Nearby, chattering fountains overflow
      I do not drink.

Then we converse
we are without purpose
what do you want of me, what do I want?
maybe nothing
a time will come when I miss the ebony forest
for the scorching suns are a legend
   the trickster morning
      pure gold
the eyes of the evening remain fixed on the
   the valley of silence is ripped
      by a lover’s call for help, one instant he lives
         another he dies.
Dusk remains
a wall
a thousand gates lost to their keys
gazelle with gentle eyes.

Translation from the Arabic



Salma Khadra Jayyusi is a renowned Palestinian poet, critic, and literary historian whose books of poetry and criticism have been published worldwide. She is the founder and director of PROTA for the translation of Arabic literature into English and of East-West Nexus for studies of Arab civilization and its legacies. With forty books to her credit, she has earned numerous awards for her contributions.

Lena Jayyusi is a professor emeritus of communication studies and writes on media, memory narratives, language, and visuality. Her translations of Arabic poetry and fiction include the medieval epic folktale The Adventures of Sayf Ben Dhi Yazan (Indiana University Press, 1991).