Illustration: “Red Anemone,” by Diana Cornelissen

By George N. El-Hage
Columbia University

As the leaves of October,
I scatter myself over your blazing inferno;
Your divine and succulent body
From its forbidden summits
Down to its ravenous depth and fertile valleys.

As a summer cloud bearing spring,
I shower gentle kisses upon your flushed lips
Whose color gives the rose its crimson
Whose benevolent banks are a bed of red anemones.

Glory to your heavenly eyes,
Two lakes of pearl and coral
I am the maker of dreams,
Of bracelets most precious
Grant me to fashion an enchanted bangle
For thy delicate wrist.

Your hair,
Waterfalls roaring in the twilight,
Forests of bewilderment,
Fields of ripened grain blessed by the harvest sun
Nourish me from your bountiful fruits.

I am the titan of lovers
Emerging from the womb of legends
Lost in the annals of ancient fables
My odyssey yearns for a happy ending
With the beautiful princess.

O my friend,
In this time of madness
Rootless with each step
Heart forged of iron
What may we hope to plant
But dejection?
What may we hope to reap
But regret?
What may we hope to build our home upon
But the banks of sin?

O my Magdalene
My virgin
My sweet lamentation
My beloved City
Lend me your voice
So I can speak unto them

War has broken my wings
My throat is barren
My strings rusted
And despair has muffled my hymn

Tell them to spare the children
To let the children live and dream

YOU, enemies of innocence
Let the children bloom
Let love conquer the forces of darkness
Let peace reign.

Suffer the little children to come unto me
Let my beloved approach
Let my City live
For unto them alone is
My love
My kingdom
My poetry.


Translated from the original Arabic by George El-Hage, Noah George, and Tracy Wilson