Al-Samandel at the Edge of Absence

Mohamed Abd-Alhai


If lost in his inclination to the sea, the waves
and salt will carve out of his crystalized bones
shell gardens in iridescent summer nights
on a deserted sandy shore


She on her loom waiting
driving time, onward once, then back
for a brief glow, out of time, when
estrangement overlaps with return


Women sang on the rock, their braids unfurled
phosphorous blossoms
the green body soaked with sea color
satiated with the honey of lilies with poisonous aroma


At night, the dream holds water mirrors
with strange engravings and names, he sees in them
the bees occupied, packing ancient tree trunks
roots in alluvial blind desire sucking at the earth’s flesh


In the ebbing waves’ lament, he sees
the birds in summertime return to their scattered nests
the frothing blood—its purest presence—on the soil
and al-samandel, wet with fire, stands on the rock at the edge of absence


She in her loom waiting
in the silence, late night and before dawn
listening to sea and earth converse
voices in the ancient language
older than the wrangling of victory and defeat
older, purer than migration and return—hijra wal awda
to mournful, waiting harbors
the still nothingness
between the sea dream and the body of fire

translated from the Arabic by Bakhit Bakhit and Aron Aji