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 ุญุฏูŠู‚ุฉ ุงู„ุณุชูŠู† (The Garden of Sixty, 2016). Along with poet Jayson Iwen, Huda Fakhreddine also translated the bilingual facing-page collection,ย 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.ย 

 

ุดุงุฑุน ููŠ ุงู„ูˆุจุงุก

ย 

ุŒุตุงุฑ ุฃู†ู‚ู‰ ูˆุฃูˆุณูŽุนูŽย 

ุŒุนุงุฏูŽ ู„ู‡ู ูˆุฌู’ู‡ูู‡ูย 

ุŒุจุนุฏู…ุง ูƒุงู† ู…ุญุชุฌุจุงู‹ ููŠ ุงู„ุฒุญุงู…ย 

…ุบุฏุง ุฎุงู„ูŠุงู‹ย 

ุŒุฐู‡ุจูŽ ุงู„ุนุงุจุฑูˆู† ุฅู„ู‰ ุงู„ุญูŽุฌู’ุฑูย 

ุŒุบุงุจุชู’ ูˆุฌูˆู‡ูŒ ู„ู‡ู…ู’ ููŠ ุญู†ุงูŠุง ุงู„ุจูŠูˆุชูย 

.ูุนุงุฏูŽ ู„ู‡ู ูˆุฌู’ู‡ูู‡ูย 

ุŒุตุงุฑ ู…ูู†ุทู„ูู‚ุงู‹ … ูŠุชู†ุฒู‘ู‡ูย 

:ูŠุฎุชุงุฑู ุจูŠู† ุงุชุฌุงู‡ูŠู’ู†ย 

ุŒูŠุญู„ูˆ ู„ู‡ู ูˆุงุญุฏูŒย 

!ุซู… ูŠุญู„ูˆ ู„ู‡ู ุนูƒู’ุณูู‡ูย 

ุŒูŠุชุญุฏู‘ู‰ ุงู„ูˆุจุงุกูŽย 

ุŒ ู ู‡ูˆ ุงู„ุขู† ูŠูุทู’ู„ูู‚ู ุฃู†ูุงุณูŽู‡ู ููŠ ูุถุงุกู ู†ู‚ูŠู‘

ุŒูˆุฃู…ุง ุงู„ูˆุจุงุกู ุŒ ูู…ูู†ุดุบูู„ูŒ ุนู†ู‡ูย 

ุŒูŠุฎุทูู ุฃู†ูุงุณูŽ ู…ู† ู‚ุจุนูˆุง ููŠ ู…ุฎุงูˆูู‡ู…ู’ย 

ย …ููŠ ุญู†ุงูŠุง ุงู„ุจูŠูˆุช

ุŒู‡ูˆ ุงู„ุขู† ูŠู…ุดูŠ ุทู„ูŠู‚ุงู‹ย 

ย ุŒูˆูŠุณุชู‚ุจู„ู ุงู„ุดู…ุณูŽ ููŠ ุณูŽุนุฉู

ูˆุงู„ู…ุจุงู†ูŠ ุนู„ู‰ ุฌุงู†ุจูŠู’ู‡ ุธู„ุงู„ู ุงู†ุชุธุงุฑู ุณู‚ูŠู…ู’

 

Corruption

 

And humans are but

corrupt tree.

They sprouted and corrupted the soil

in which trees reveled.

 

ูุณุงุฏ

ย 

…. ูˆุงู„ุจุดุฑู’ย 

ุŒู„ู… ูŠูƒูˆู†ูˆุง ุณูˆู‰ ุดุฌุฑู ูุงุณุฏูย 

ุŒุนู†ุฏู…ุง ู†ุจุชูˆุง ุŒ ุฃูุณุฏูˆุง ุชุฑุจุฉู‹ย 

.ูƒุงู† ูŠุฑุชุนู ููŠู‡ุง ุงู„ุดุฌุฑู’ย 

 

Envy

 

When poetry yields to me

I envy myself.

The odds of malady fade

and all creatures attend to me

as Iย  discern them

and determine, in their folds,

essence from excess.

 

ุญุณุฏ

ย 

ุŒุนู†ุฏู…ุง ูŠุชุฃุชู‰ ู„ูŠูŽ ุงู„ุดุนุฑู

ุŒุฃุญุณุฏ ู†ูุณูŠ

.ูˆูŠุฐู‡ุจ ุนู†ูŠ ุงุญุชู…ุงู„ู ุงู„ู…ุฑูŽุถู’ย 

ุŒูˆุชุญู’ุถุฑูู†ูŠ ุงู„ูƒุงุฆู†ุงุชูุŒ ู„ุฃู†ุตุญูŽู‡ุงย 

ุŒูˆุฃู…ูŠู‘ุฒูŽ ู…ุง ุจูŠู†ูŽู‡ุงย 

.ูˆุฃุญุฏู‘ุฏูŽ ููŠ ุทูŠู‘ู‡ุง ุฌูˆู’ู‡ุฑุงู‹ ุฃูˆ ุนุฑูŽุถู’ย 

 

 

Waste

 

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,

glowing,

weaving magic for

the myth of night.ย 

 

ู‡ุฏุฑ

ย 

ุŒ ูุนู†ุฏู…ุง ุฃุธู„ู…ุชู’ ุทูุฑูู‚ุงุชู ุงู„ู†ุฌุงุฉ

ุŒ ููˆุฃุธู’ู„ู…ูŽ ุฃููู’ู‚ูŒ ู‡ูˆ ุงู„ุญุฏูู‘ ุจูŠู† ุงู„ู…ูŠุงู‡ ูˆุจูŠู† ุงู„ุณู…ุงุก

ุŒูˆุฃุธู’ู„ู…ูŽ ูˆุฌู‡ู ุงู„ู‚ููุงุฑ ูุงู„ุชูŠ ุฎู…ุฏุชู’ย 

ุธู„ู‘ุช ุงู„ุบุงุจุฉู ุงู„ุจููƒู’ุฑู ุชุณู’ููŽุญู ููˆู‚ ุงู„ุชุฑุงุจ ุธู„ุงู„ุงู‹

ุŒุชุฏุงุนุจูู‡ุง ุงู„ุดู…ุณูย 

ุธู„ู‘ุชู’ ูƒูˆุงูƒุจู ุชุณู’ุจุญู ููŠ ู„ูŠู„ ุฃูู„ุงูƒู‡ุง

ย ุŒุชุชูˆู‡ู‘ุฌู

.ุชุบู’ุฒู„ู ุณูุญู’ุฑุงู‹ ูŠู†ุงุณุจู ุฃุณุทูˆุฑุฉ ุงู„ู„ูŠู„ู’

ย 

Microscope

 

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 weโ€™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.

 

ู…ุฌู‡ุฑ

ุŒู„ู… ุฃูƒู†ู’ ุฃู„ุชู‚ูŠ ุงู„ุดู…ุณ ููŠ ุงู„ุจูŠุชูย 
.ู‚ุจู„ูŽ ุงู„ุธู‡ูŠุฑุฉ ุฃูˆ ุจุนุฏูŽู‡ุงย 
ุŒู„ู… ุฃูƒู†ู’ ุฃุญุชุณูŠ ุงู„ุดุงูŠูŽ ุจุนุฏ ุงู„ุบุฏุงุกูย 
.ุนู„ู‰ ุดุฑูุฉู ุฑุญู’ุจุฉูุŒ ูƒู†ุชู ุฃู‡ู…ู„ุชูู‡ุงย 
ุŒู„ู… ุฃูƒู†ู’ ุฃุฑุชุฌูŠ ุฃู†ู’ ูŠุญู„ู‘ู‘ ุงู„ุณูƒูˆู† ูˆู„ูˆ ู…ุฑู‘ุฉู‹ย 
ย ู.ููŠ ู„ูŠุงู„ูŠ ุงู„ู…ุฏูŠู†ุฉ
ู…ุง ูƒุงู† ุฐู„ูƒ ูŠุญุตู„ ู‚ุจู„ูŽ ุงู„ูˆุจุงุก ุงู„ุฐูŠ
.ุฒุฌู‘ู†ุง ููŠ ุงู„ุจูŠูˆุชูย 

ุŒูƒุฃู†ู‘ ุงู„ูˆุจุงุกูŽ ุงู„ุฐูŠ ู„ุง ูŠูุฑู‰ ู…ูุฌู’ู‡ูŽุฑูŒย 
ู„ู†ุฑู‰ ููŠู‡ ูƒูŠู ุฃูุฎูุฐู’ู†ุง ูˆู„ู… ู†ู†ุชุจูู‡ู’
ย …ููŠ ุชุถุงุนูŠู ุฃูŠุงู…ู†ุง
ย ุŒู„ู… ุฃูƒู†ู’ ู„ุฃุฏู‚ู‘ู‚ูŽ ููŠ ูƒุงุฆู†ุงุช ุงู„ุฒูˆุงูŠุง
.ูˆููŠ ุจุนุถู‡ุง ุฌุฏู‘ุฏูŽ ุงู„ุฒู‡ุฑู ุฃูƒุซุฑูŽ ู…ู† ู…ุฑู‘ุฉ ูู†ูุณูŽู‡ูย 
ย ุŒู„ู… ุฃูƒู†ู’ ู„ุฃู…ุฑู‘ู†ูŽ ู†ูุณูŠ ุนู„ู‰ ู†ุฒู‡ุฉู ุฏุงุฎู„ูŽ ุงู„ุจูŠุชู
ุŒุฃุฏุฎู„ูู‡ู ุบุฑูุฉู‹ ุบุฑูุฉู‹ย 
ูุฅุฐุง ุจูŠ ุฃุฑู‰ ู…ุง ุงุณุชู‚ุฑู‘ ู‡ู†ุง ุฃูˆ ู‡ู†ุงู„ูƒ ู…ู†
.ุนู…ุฑูŠูŽ ุงู„ู…ู†ู’ู‚ุถูŠย 
ู„ู… ุฃูƒู†ู’ ู„ุฃูˆุงุฌู‡ูŽ ู…ูƒุชุจุชูŠ ูƒุงู„ู…ู‡ุงุฌุฑุŒ ุนุงุฏ ู„ูƒูŠ
ย .ูŠุณุชุนูŠุฏูŽ ุตุฏุงู‚ุงุชูู‡ู ุงู„ุบุงุจุฑู‡ู’
ย ุŒุฑุจู…ุง ุŒ ุญูŠู† ูŠู…ุถูŠ ุงู„ูˆุจุงุกู
ุŒุณุฃุจู‚ู‰ ุนู„ู‰ ู…ุง ุชุนูˆู‘ุฏู’ุชูู‡ู ู…ู† ุทู‚ูˆุณ ูุฎู„ุงู„ูŽ ุงู„ูˆุจุงุกูย 
_ู„ุฃู†ูŠ ุชุนู„ู‘ู…ุชู ุฃู†ู’ ุฃุชู…ุณู‘ูƒูŽ _ ุฃูƒุซุฑูŽ ู…ู† ู‚ุจู’ู„ูย 
ย ุŒุจุงู„ูˆู‚ุชู
ย ุŒุฃู†ู’ ุฃุชูุญูŽู‘ุตูŽู‡ู ุฌูŠู‘ุฏุงู‹
ย ุŒุฃู†ู’ ุฃุฑู‰ ุงู„ุนู…ู’ุฑูŽ ู…ู†ูƒู…ุดุงู‹ ุŒ ุฌุงู…ุฏุงู‹
.ููŠ ู‡ูู†ูŠู’ู‡ุงุชูู‡ู ุงู„ุนุงุจุฑู‡ู’ย 

ย 

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) andย 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,โ€ฏ World Literature Today, Nimrod, ArabLit Quarterly, and Middle Easternโ€ฏLiteratures.

~

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

~

To support theย ongoing work of ArabLit andย ArabLit Quarterly,ย consider buying an issue for yourself or a friend, or helping us out by donating through Patreon or PayPal, or, if you have one, byย asking your institution to take out aย subscription to the magazine.