Friday, November 21, 2014

The Damascene Collar of the Dove by Mahmoud Darwish

In Damascus - في دمشق from Waref Abu Quba on Vimeo.

Waref Abu Quba has managed in this short, 4 minute film, to reflect beautifully, in weathered celluloid, some of the verses of this eternal poem by Mahmoud Darwish about Damascus. There is certainly a nostalgia in these poetic glimpses of the city of Damascus. The city that was the jewel of the east. And it is with a fair amount of fear and sadness that at the end of this short film we see two fighter jet planes passing above the blue sky of the city. They take with them, in a way, the cobblestones, the narrow side streets, the voices of the oud and the busy market, the doves that fly behind the silk fence. But they can never take away the essence of this city because it has been forever captured in the verses of this poem and the hearts and minds of its people.       

The Damascene Collar of the Dove
By Mahmoud Darwish
(Translated in English by Fady Joudah)

In Damascus,
the doves fly
behind the silk fence
two . . .
by two . . .

In Damascus:
I see all of my language
written with a woman’s needle 
on a grain of wheat,
refined by the partridge of the Mesopotamian rivers

In Damascus:
the names of the Arabian horses have been embroidered,
since Jahili times
and through judgment day,
or after,
. . . with gold threads

In Damascus:
the sky walks
barefoot on the old roads,
So what’s the poet’s use 
of revelation
and meter
and rhyme?

In Damascus:
the stranger sleeps
on his shadow standing
like a minaret in eternity’s bed
not longing for a land
or anyone . . .

In Damascus:
the present tense continues
its Umayyad chores:
we walk to our tomorrow certain
of the sun in our yesterday.
Eternity and we
inhabit this place!

In Damascus:
the dialogue goes on
between the violin and the oud
about the question of existence
and about the endings:
whenever a woman kills a passing lover
she attains the Lotus Tree of Heaven!

In Damascus:
Youssef tears up, 
with the flute,
his ribs
Not for a reason,
other than that 
his heart wasn’t with him

In Damascus:
speech returns to its origin,
poetry isn’t poetry
and prose isn’t prose
And you say: I won’t leave you
so take me to you
and take me with you!

In Damascus:
a gazelle sleeps
besides a woman
in a bed of dew
then the woman takes off her dress
and covers Barada with it!

In Damascus:
a bird picks
at what is left of wheat
in my palm
and leaves for me a single grain
to show me my tomorrow

In Damascus:
The jasmine dallies with me:
Don’t go far
and follow my tracks
Then the garden becomes jealous:
Don’t come near
the blood of night in my moon

In Damascus:
I keep my lighthearted dream company
and laughing on the almond blossom:
Be realistic
that I may blossom again
around her name’s water
And be realistic
that I may pass in her dream!

In Damascus:
I introduce myself
to itself:
Right here, beneath two almond eyes
we fly together as twins
and postpone our mutual past

In Damascus:
speech softens
and I hear the sound of blood
in the marble veins:
Snatch me away from my son
(she, the prisoner, says to me) 
or petrify with me!

In Damascus:
I count my ribs
and return my heart to its trot
Perhaps the one who granted me entry
to her shadow
has killed me,
and I didn’t notice . . .

In Damascus:
the stranger gives her howdah back
to the caravan:
I won’t return to my tent
I won’t hang my guitar,
after this evening,
on the family’s fig tree . . .

In Damascus:
poems become diaphanous
They’re neither sensual
nor intellectual
they are what echo says
to echo . . .

In Damascus:
the cloud dries up by afternoon,
then digs a well
for the summer of lovers in the Qysoon valley,
and the flute completes its habit
of longing to what is present in it, 
then cries in vain

In Damascus:
I write in a woman’s journal:
All what’s in you
of narcissus
desires you
and no fence, around you, protects you
from your night’s excess allure

In Damascus:
I see how the Damascus night diminishes
slowly, slowly
And how our goddesses increase
by one!

In Damascus:
the traveler sings to himself:
I return from Syria
neither alive
nor dead
but as clouds
that ease the butterfly’s burden
from my fugitive soul


“The Collar of the Dove” is a famous manuscript on beauty and the art of love, written in the 11th century by Ibn Hazm, a renowned Andalusian Muslim scholar.

Barada is a small river that runs through Damascus, and Qysoon valley is one of the city’s suburbs.

Oud is a stringed instrument resembling the lute.

The Lotus Tree of Heaven, Sidrat al-Montaha (the highest degree of attainment) is a fantastic tree that arises form the Seventh Heaven and reaches God’s throne.

Youssef: son of Jacob.

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