from The Silence That Remains

Ghassan Zaqtan


They weren’t here
the kilns are warm
the silk is on the ground
the smell of sleep and hay blind the place

The sounds of plants colliding with horses
and what remains
or betrays the pouring of tambourines

They weren’t here
the tables are stacked against the wall
the bottles are all empty
the glasses are as they were

like some murdered flowers that have
sprouted on the shelves

The Stranger’s Song

In strange countries dew was crying at the door
and roadsides drove colts to death

The place with its ten attributes was clean,
reward on earth was where each time ends

And lovers and evangelists
and what saints leave behind
of prayers and breads
were with me

What will lure you away from me?

Your morning, that bird of slow talk
tossed its rituals to dusk,
and some sleep in the heart was heading to its countryside
to sleep

And something of life on the back of the hand
was narrating

If only you knew
that the faces that went would remain in threads of air,
if only you knew that the paths would each have a voice,
tobacco would have the taste of a wish,
and newcomers would have the mirrors of absence

He saw and desired
and it was done

The secret
was done
so lift your air
your house visitors are a bunch of tempters
their attributes are in the book

Your lover’s window
has not slept
or overlooked you

Song of the Three Patrols

We didn’t come bearing stars
we didn’t come bearing wine
we didn’t come bearing seashells

We weren’t in the sky
we weren’t in vineyards
and didn’t harvest the sea

Did the countryside really believe
and did our mother also believe
that it can be harvested?

Children of Palm Trees

At evening they passed us by
or by the evening’s outskirts they passed us by
a bunch of desert pendulums
born to a palm tree
that chucked them to time
            and said: that’s your land
            it’s been there
            with it until it softens
            then leave at night
            and bequeath nothing here

They passed us by
exposing secret and vision
never in a rush
their gait easy
their conversation sad:
            we’re not in a hurry
            we drank from the Euphrates
            and waited
            a woman fed us dates
            kissed our young for loving us
            entrusted them to us
            and us
            to us

translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah