Lebanese poet Jawdat Fakhreddine — who often writes beautifully about ordinary, domestic life — has been posting pandemic poems, several of which are translated here by his daughter-translator-collaborator, Huda Fakhreddine:

Huda most recently translated The Sky That Denied Me: Selected Poems by Jawdat Fakhreddine (2020), along with Roger Allen, which brings together work from seven of her father’s poetry collections, including his recent حديقة الستين (The Garden of Sixty, 2016). Along with poet Jayson Iwen, Huda Fakhreddine also translated the bilingual facing-page collection, Lighthouse for the Drowning (2017).

These new poems are part of a series of translation that ArabLit will be making available online during our shared quarantine.

A Street in the Pandemic


Purer and wider now,

the street has retrieved its face

that was occluded by the crowds.

It is empty now,

the pedestrians quarantined,

their faces folded away in the houses.

It has retrieved its face,

and free, it strolls

one way then another,

longs for one direction

then fancies its opposite.

It taunts the pandemic.

It breathes the pure air in

as the pandemic, distracted,

holds the breaths of those sheltering in their fears,

in the folds of their houses.

The street walks at ease,

welcoming the sun whole-heartedly.

And the buildings stand on its sides,

shadows of ailing anticipation. 


شارع في الوباء


،صار أنقى وأوسَعَ 

،عادَ لهُ وجْهُهُ 

،بعدما كان محتجباً في الزحام 

…غدا خالياً 

،ذهبَ العابرون إلى الحَجْرِ 

،غابتْ وجوهٌ لهمْ في حنايا البيوتِ 

.فعادَ لهُ وجْهُهُ 

،صار مُنطلِقاً … يتنزّهُ 

:يختارُ بين اتجاهيْن 

،يحلو لهُ واحدٌ 

!ثم يحلو لهُ عكْسُهُ 

،يتحدّى الوباءَ 

، ٍ هو الآن يُطْلِقُ أنفاسَهُ في فضاءٍ نقيّ

،وأما الوباءُ ، فمُنشغِلٌ عنهُ 

،يخطفُ أنفاسَ من قبعوا في مخاوفهمْ 

 …في حنايا البيوت

،هو الآن يمشي طليقاً 

 ،ويستقبلُ الشمسَ في سَعةٍ

والمباني على جانبيْه ظلالُ انتظارٍ سقيمْ




And humans are but

corrupt tree.

They sprouted and corrupted the soil

in which trees reveled.




…. والبشرْ 

،لم يكونوا سوى شجرٍ فاسدٍ 

،عندما نبتوا ، أفسدوا تربةً 

.كان يرتعُ فيها الشجرْ 




When poetry yields to me

I envy myself.

The odds of malady fade

and all creatures attend to me

as I  discern them

and determine, in their folds,

essence from excess.




،عندما يتأتى ليَ الشعرُ

،أحسد نفسي

.ويذهب عني احتمالُ المرَضْ 

،وتحْضرُني الكائناتُ، لأنصحَها 

،وأميّزَ ما بينَها 

.وأحدّدَ في طيّها جوْهراً أو عرَضْ 





When the paths to salvation darkened

and the horizon separating water from sky darkened

and the face of the extinguished desert darkened,

a virgin forest still shed its sun-kissed shadows

over the soil

and planets still floated in their orbits at night,


weaving magic for

the myth of night. 




، ِعندما أظلمتْ طُرُقاتُ النجاة

، ِوأظْلمَ أُفْقٌ هو الحدُّ بين المياه وبين السماء

،وأظْلمَ وجهُ القِفار ِالتي خمدتْ 

ظلّت الغابةُ البِكْرُ تسْفَحُ فوق التراب ظلالاً

،تداعبُها الشمسُ 

ظلّتْ كواكبُ تسْبحُ في ليل أفلاكها


.تغْزلُ سِحْراً يناسبُ أسطورة الليلْ




Never before this,

did I meet the sun inside the house

in the morning or the afternoon.

I never had tea after lunch

on the wide balcony I had neglected before this.

I never once wished that silence befall

the city at night,

never before the virus

that has locked us all in.

This invisible virus, as if a lens

so we may see how we’ve lost ourselves

in the folds of days…

I never trained myself to promenade around the house,

from one room to another,

discovering what has settled here or there

of my past days.

Never before did I face my library like a migrant,

returned to rekindle old friendships.

Perhaps, after this pandemic passes,

I will keep the rituals I have acquired in its course

because I’ve learned to hold on- more than ever before –

to time,

to examine it meticulously

and to find life, clenched and caught,

in its fleeting moments.



،لم أكنْ ألتقي الشمس في البيتِ 
.قبلَ الظهيرة أو بعدَها 
،لم أكنْ أحتسي الشايَ بعد الغداءِ 
.على شرفةٍ رحْبةٍ، كنتُ أهملتُها 
،لم أكنْ أرتجي أنْ يحلّّ السكون ولو مرّةً 
 ِ.في ليالي المدينة
ما كان ذلك يحصل قبلَ الوباء الذي
.زجّنا في البيوتِ 

،كأنّ الوباءَ الذي لا يُرى مِجْهَرٌ 
لنرى فيه كيف أُخِذْنا ولم ننتبِهْ
 …في تضاعيف أيامنا
 ،لم أكنْ لأدقّقَ في كائنات الزوايا
.وفي بعضها جدّدَ الزهرُ أكثرَ من مرّة ٍنفسَهُ 
 ،لم أكنْ لأمرّنَ نفسي على نزهةٍ داخلَ البيتِ
،أدخلُهُ غرفةً غرفةً 
فإذا بي أرى ما استقرّ هنا أو هنالك من
.عمريَ المنْقضي 
لم أكنْ لأواجهَ مكتبتي كالمهاجر، عاد لكي
 .يستعيدَ صداقاتِهِ الغابرهْ
 ،ربما ، حين يمضي الوباءُ
،سأبقى على ما تعوّدْتُهُ من طقوس ٍخلالَ الوباءِ 
_لأني تعلّمتُ أنْ أتمسّكَ _ أكثرَ من قبْلُ 
 ،أنْ أتفحَّصَهُ جيّداً
 ،أنْ أرى العمْرَ منكمشاً ، جامداً
.في هُنيْهاتِهِ العابرهْ 


Jawdat Fakhreddine teaches Arabic literature at the Lebanese University in Beirut and has published more than ten poetry collections.

Huda J. Fakhreddine is Assistant Professor of Arabic literature at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Metapoesis in the Arabic Tradition (Brill, 2015) and the co-translator of Lighthouse for the Drowning (BOA editions, 2017) and The Sky That Denied Me (University of Texas Press, 2020). Her translations of modern Arabic poems have appeared in Banipal,  World Literature Today, Nimrod, ArabLit Quarterly, and Middle Eastern Literatures.


Featured image of an empty street from a video by Hasan Shaaban.


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