FROM THE LETTERS OF THE ABSENT FATHER
Time Minutes, seconds, moments Days and their people Whole countries dissipated like fog. Violence kept up its daily labour on me; A goldsmith flattening my existence. Some of me was alive, the rest blank. So I thirsted for a sign At that time I was learning to read clouds Letters sent by the earth’s inhabitants; Each word a breath moving the air like the flap of a butterfly’s wing No time, limiting the effect. I learnt almost nothing An absent father Stolen away by a vague wonder. I stumble, hesitate, panic, blush. Each time as if for the first time Desire rises. Addicted to yearning in my calm rituals for waiting I hear detail calling detail the hissing of small coincidences braiding up to change fate. I believe in a delicate illusion in which the whole of creation was brought forth from the word and began looking for its talisman in a man killing a man who in turn is killing a man who in turn is killing another and another and another, and discount the news and life’s identical images. Meaning has never been an impenetrable question. A sentence, an image, a tune will back me up if suddenly I fall ‘in the middle of the square Like a horse they scythed in the knee’ I read a poem about hair that turned grey when meteors crossed it, And a sentence from a passerby in a bar: You, The last one in this place, Don’t turn off the music when you leave; silence doesn’t suit this life we lived.
Clouds, The moment the storm breaks as the wood of lightning burns I repeat the scene often, slowly I see the spring of the first lightning bolt, the way it expands and diverges webbing with another lightning bolt. In another scene, on earth this time, In streets I know Death Loud, anguished frenzied, mad Lining in from all sides Bombs, bullets unreeling the night The night of you, streets! I stare into the grapevine into the tenderness of its metaphor; its ends grow into the void to hold the far edges. I sip from my glass and become an arbour to the vines. I let my laziness grow I comb it, clip its nails, and worry when it recedes;
Age Ever since I became an absent father, I’ve been learning to knot its ravelling threads I’ve been learning to ravel its threads To let it flow: In Latakia, August 1980 For an hour it rained, the sea raged I cried at the return of winter, the holiday’s end For the first time I heard my grandfather say summer cloud. On a shore near Granada, August 2012 Leila threw stones at a rain cloud and for the first time heard me say summer cloud. She didn’t see how I melted then moment by moment until death seemed a passing affliction intruding on the fluency of time.
I haven’t opened my suitcases I haven’t despaired of a time that is not mine. And I’ve learnt almost anything. When the war is over and laziness flourishes gleefully I will reach the depth of that metaphor. By Mohammad Abou Laban (Translated from the Arabic by Liwaa Yazji, edited by David Hermann)
Publish in A Syrious Look - Syrians in German, A Magazine About Culture in Exile. www.asyriouslook.com