Lamia Abbas Amara: ‘Had the Fortune-teller Told Me’

Iraqi poet Lamia Abbas Amara was born in 1929 and published her first poem when she was thirteen:

By Hend Saeed

Lamia Abbas Amara was from a poetic family — she was cousin to the well-known Iraqi poet Abdul Razak Abdul Wahed — and she started writing poetry when very young. She graduated from Baghdad’s Higher Teacher’s College in 1950 and, for many years, taught Arabic.

Her three most widely read poetry collections are: The Empty Corner, I Am Iraqi, and Had the Fortune-teller Told Me.

She has written both formal and free verse, and she’s said that that formal verse is the way to communicate with others, but that she prefers writing free verse, which she things bring her closer to her audience.

She was a member of the Board of Directors of the Iraqi Writers Association between 1963 and 75, and deputy to the Iraqi representative for UNESCO in Paris from 1973-75.

She currently lives in the United States.

You can see her read the Arabic original of “Had the Fortune-teller Told Me.”


Had the Fortune-teller Told Me

By Lamia Abbas Amara

Translated by Hend Saeed

If only the fortune-teller had told me that

you would, one day, be my beloved

I wouldn’t have written love poems for a man

but would have prayed, mute,

that you would always be my lover

If only the fortune-teller had told me that

I would touch the face of that high moon

I wouldn’t have dallied with the pebbles on the walls

or strung together the beads of my hopes

If only the fortune-teller had told me that

my beloved

would be a prince, astride a ruby horse

life would have pulled me along with its blonde braids

and I wouldn’t have dreamed of my death

If only the fortune-teller had told me that

my beloved, on a snowy night

would hold the sun in his hands

my lungs would’ve blossomed

and yesterday’s worries would have shrunk in my eyes

If only the fortune-teller had told me that

I would meet you in this labyrinth

I would have cried for nothing in this world

I would have gathered my tears

all my tears

for the day when you abandon me

Hend Saeed loves books and has a special interest in Arabic literature. She had published a collection of short stories and recently started “Arabic Literature in English – Australia.” She is also a translator, life consultant, and book reviewer.