WADIH SAADEH’S LANDMARK POEM IN ROBIN MOGER’S TRANSLATION
Farewell God I walk looking at my feet off to the cafe to meet my friends
Farewell I grow old the cafe in the square I mount two steps and sit
Heard Carmena Burana and went now the player sings alone
by the closed window
Light rain against the pane light rain against the port across the way
Farewell Four o’clock I have a date with my friends
I mount two steps and sit
We laugh opening mouth on mouth, pinked, coming out of the fridge
out of the Eskimos with the bears of the Eskimos with dog-drawn sleds with goatskins
mouth on mouth like lovers
marrying the divine laughter, unintelligible words, the wings the angels wore to fly
marrying five centimetres of air
in which our mouths swim new angels pilots tumbling down with countermeasures
ragged spirit leaves pieces of ghosts gods left on stairs
We talk drawing from our mouths the needle of words the threads from our veins woven to a size that barely fits us
and we go out on the street cheered that we talked and threw oranges from the windows and heard the trembling silence of the alleys
that we fought with the cafe owner fought with the driver of the truck fought
with God and went out
Charles with blonde beard like a prickly pear trousers cut wide enough to be worn with other people he never found
Abbas with a head cast and set in prison camps
Mary with her body rolled down from snowy mountains and about to melt
Abdo with his new rooms fleeing old Himeida so he can masturbate freely
Aql with his lost love with Isadora with his back pain with the rocket propelled grenade that dropped in front of him
Laughing laughing laughing
We lift our hands into the void We lower them to the earth We return them to our pockets
We pour water over ourselves that we might have the benefit of our bodies
rugs beneath the winter soft fur that speaks to passers-by lorries
seeping out of crotches
and together we cry: The divine bus has arrived. Our suitcases are come
Cases Cases Cases our suitcases lost among them so let’s step into the cafe
seat our bodies’ fur at the table with us seat our beards
our battles our masturbations our day’s profit from selling counterfeit weight of imaginings
White kingdoms singing at the windows
Eternity in the passage Eternity by a thread
And we move the chair back a little so the breeze may pass
by the breeze that passes between us By the water You tipped over me Farewell and Your eyes that watch me
from behind the door Your blue mouth Your glasses from Al Hakim Optician’s
and Your hands that tell me: This is the way
Farewell, by Your beautiful wrists Your watch that tells an unknown time Four o’clock now Farewell
Chabtin. December 6, 1962. My father, a charred skeleton clasping his knees and a couch
Moonbeams through the skylight.
On the table a fish untouched an empty bottle of arak an almond leaf before the door.
I weighed 40 kilos with the page on which I wrote my poetry.
40 kilos with your smile. With your glance. With your hand on my shoulder
With your fish on the table. With your charred flesh.
40 kilos with your smoke
The stallion of heaven sets out a bead of sweat upon his brow.
Sunboat sails to Laranca. Walks over the sea by the fish. Sunboat. Sailing
bid farewell by a hand whose thumb moves slightly then settles back in place.
We shift in our seats. We pass our fingers over our hair. We hit time on the head in front of us on the wall.
In open-chested shirts. We look at one another and smile.
We look at the passers-by who look like us.
Sitting amid cigarette smoke. Sitting or standing or passing by. Eating the gravel from the street. Eating
the balconies from in front of the cars. From in front of the cart of expectations which stopped by us.
Holding aloft the head of love and crying.
Smashed arteries. Long guts of ground cast down by the roadsides.
Holding coasts. Towers. Bike parts. Hulls. Hands and legs and chests in shirts
and your foot, Mother, which measures 20 centimetres
your shoe my father’s brother made for you in 1957 and which you still wear now
your long nails, as you wait for Wadie’s smile to ask: Will you clip them for me?
Your knees creeping over thorn and stone towards a saint’s shrine
that my father may give up drink.
Your only dress, as though stuck to your body. Flabby body from which I emerged one day bringing
little eyes and fingers scarce able to bear the breeze.
Stretching my hand out under the raindrops to speeding cars,
to Paris hitchhiking,
I persuade the owner in broken French
Une bouteille d’Arak extra
in return for breakfast.
Sleeping in bus stops in January snows.
Sleeping in the old people’s home. With a hundred and fifty old people who cough all night
and take the minutes away with them to the toilets.
On the Seine. Leaves on the benches.
On the road with a big suitcase. Tossing their contents piece by piece and reading on the tree trunks
Fishing is forbidden
In Hendaye. Empty-handed at last on the Spanish border
twenty pesetas short of Madrid.
The couch by the door. The bottle on the table. God in heaven. My father in the grave. The snow on the mountain
Time passed out in the street. Life sitting with its friend behind the rock. A song reaching me from afar.
We walk carrying our bodies wrapped in ancient dressings made of ribs, wrapped in stolen veins
in soft skins that have survived wars.
We place body in front of body and stare at the walls.
Hey, Louis: another glass!
Sargon will write a hundred poems tonight. Jad will write a whole novel on the Lebanese war and emigrate
tomorrow morning. To Melbourne.
A glass, Louis!
The mind will turn soon to a sweet cat. The blind shall see. Eternity hang out her breasts and say,
shall at last present His lips. This planet shall join our private thievings.
I shall be a king, Louis. Give me a glass.
My sign is Cancer. When I wake
I find myself back in the world and glance for a moment at my crotch.
I comb my hair and lose about ten hairs.
My sign is Cancer. Sign without hair. With little hands that can just about
crawl over the ground. With two semi-visible eyes serving their conscription on the rocks
I preserve the sight of a ship departing, of the shells of drowned smiles,
of the eyes of the blind forgotten on the sand.
I preserve impoverished nights to which the wind comes by chance.
But Louis you do not understand all this.
Only, tell me: Why do you not let my friend rest his tired feet on your cafe’s window pane, when shortly he’ll be walking his whole life long?
Hear me, mother Mary. Hear me, Frankish mother. I do not love Louis.
Elias is my friend. Shaiya is my friend. But I do not love Louis.
Rain falls against the pane.
Flower pots outside. A couch that has got wet, I think.
On the seat a small lump I think may be a cat.
Standing in a small street. Stretching my hand to the passers-by.
You know, Jad, we lacked the quarter lira to reach Bourj Square.
Stretched out in Hamra Street, in front of the Faculty of Arts, by the Sudanese pistachio peddlar, I sell The Evening Has No Brothers
And after that, the labs in Australia. Rising at four in the morning
and waiting for the bus and standing nine months at a machine in a Holden factory to save for a return ticket to Beirut.
a bag I walk with from village to village selling first-aid for the elderly.
Get up, let’s look for another café.
Downtown, a beautiful stone building. It has chairs overlooking the sea.
and lay two fingers on the bar.
Farewell I grow old, I have
weak ribs which once dreamed of gymnastics, I have
a head with a full complement of dips and hollows,
two silent hands I keep company through the day and then we shake and go to sleep
What may an idler do with these over the course of forty years?
The moon in the water. A man on the road. And a speeding truck.
We walk shoulder to shoulder, colliding with blind breaths
Running running running carrying
the cases, the women and children, carrying the tables and chairs, the flowerpots, and running, racing
on thin feet, on broken branches. And what’s the urgency? An unremarkable happenstance: life
Farewell. The window before me looks out on the port, it has been closed since yesterday
The rain is light and beautiful. The couch outside. Eternity in the passage.
My hand upon the table
My mother’s foot measures 20 centimetres