Afflicted by fate with its worst punishments,
Don’t wish for anything,
Don’t desire anything.
. . . their brows are furrowed
And their spotless complexions turn sallow.
They abhor greed for petrol
In barren hills;
It’s just a current fad.
Youth’s nectar flows pure for naught, and
Its naked clusters dangle.
Each bunch is available;
Pull off as many as you want.
Apple, fig, and almond cascade down.
Every act is permissible;
Slip your foot into any soft skin you like
For a paltry sum,
Of only a few dirhams.
Then rise and spit out:
Softer than a feather’s fluff,
Gentler than a child’s laugh,
Simpler than gushing water.
Remnants an honorable life glisten in lackluster eyes.
In their valises,
Silently, with a smirk, they tote tragedies,
Concealing toys and gifts for their kids
Beneath cosmetic cases,
Beside letters from their family.
They are like us. . . .
. . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . .
. . .
Their sorrows seep
Into their tired blood.
. . . . .
Do you suppose
That if we awoke unexpectedly
As downtrodden people ,
We would spill as much blood
Into chalices of debasement and misery?
Or, would we remain just as we are
And honorable people?
All summer long our young men reserve
More than half of London
For dancing, drinking, snorting, cursing, and legendary generosity,
Giving our letter to others.
We’re the most good-natured folks where money is concerned
And the most generous,
“And the generous man is merry”.
Will we continue
To look down on other people,
Considering them flawed, cursed, stupid louts
Who shove their filth into our teaspoons, beneath our fingernails, and inside our children’s copybooks,
Wantonly perpetrating their offenses in our streets?
Or, will we realize that it’s wrong
To diagnose their ailments preemptively
From this vantage point?
Amman, February, 2002
Arabic poetry , poem by Abdulla Al Salem
Translated by William M. Hutchins