We do not see the hut when the lights first come up, and then we see it. Its inhabitants are not interested in us, perhaps because their problems do not concern us. These women spend their days waiting for a man, and they know that one day he will come. Lights shine upstage from the front of the stage, illuminating a door in the back wall. Neither fully open nor quite shut, it swings gently on its hinges, creaking intermittently, as though the fitful wind outside the hut is knocking to make its presence known within. Then the light sweeps downstage and to the right: we see a flight of stairs rising to the princess’s room, mirrored by a flight on the left leading down to their larder. Centre stage is an old-fashioned, rectangular dining table—or rather, it is simply old: it has no identifiable fashion. Around this table there are four chairs, the back of one slightly higher than the rest. The chairs are not neatly arranged but are scattered about as though hastily vacated. Between them wend the backs of two women dressed in black, cleaning the shabby furnishings and complaining.
First song of autumn
Joy of my days, come
watch me run
I’ve bought white shoes
and see-through eagle’s wings
I am the clarinet’s mouth
and you the ransomed player
Kneel and guzzle me, set
the sea’s taste in my throat
and make my breast a wave
upon whose mane the sun
The grey ships come from the north,
The snow-white ships come from the pole,
The ships of the south are all broken down.
O Harbourmaster sitting on the cloudbanks,
O Harbourmaster walking on the water,
Tell those leaping on the equator line
How their flesh might turn to wood,
How their bones might turn to steel,
Until from out their bodies comes a ship
Its black pushing through the swell.
nes t ree
in turn I bore straw
much straw and went
in search of a tree to make
my nest but a tree I did not find
and with the straw I’d gleaned I packed
my chest I picked a field and I stood upright there
Poem 55 from a correspondence in translations of Ibn Arabi’s Tarjuman al-Ashwaq, between Yasmine Seale and Robin Moger. The first two translations are made independently and each subsequent rendering written after the other’s previous version has been sent and seen.
Distance, and desire ruins me. To meet
is no relief. Come or go, desire hardly cares.
Meeting him, unreckoned
things happen. In place of healing,
another ache of longing.
Because to meet him is to see
a person whose beauty grows
ever more abundant, proud.
All I can do is match my love’s ascent
To his loveliness on its measured scale.
You know that home is come undone
to nothing? Now
thornbush and hollow
pieced in an unbroken plain
as Spica sets receive its rains,
first falls that pass and circle,
who are you and who am I
he stayed me
and he said to me Who are you and who am I and I saw the sun and the moon and the stars and all the lights ashine and he said to me There is no light in my sea shines on without I have seen it and each thing came to me until no thing was left and kissed me between my eyes and saluted me and stood in shadow and he said to me You know me and I do not know you and I saw all of him clung to my robe and not to me and my robe leant and I did not and my robe leant and he said to me Who am I and the sun went down and the moon and the stars fell and the lights were put out and the dark covered all things but him and my eye did not see and my ear did not hear my senses ceased and each thing spoke it said Allahu Akbar and each thing came to me a spear in its hand it said to me Flee and I said Where to and it said Fall into darkness and into darkness I fell and I saw myself and he said to me See none but yourself ever Come out from darkness never And should I bring you out from it I would show you myself You would see me and should you see me you would be most distant of all
he stayed me