“The lonely sparrow,” Adhab al-Rikaby writes, “envies the branch of the tree”:
By Buthaina Al Nasiri
What attracted me to these poems? Well, let me see: the sun, the sparrows, the dew, and of course the bees.
At the Arab Narration Forum, which was held in the fall of 2017 by the Sharjah Ministry of Culture in Luxor, Egypt, my hotel room overlooked a huge garden that extended to the river that separates the city’s east side from its west. After dawn on my first day, I walked out, barefoot, on dew-wet grass, chasing the sunrise. Then, sitting on a heap of stones, I opened the book I was holding and started to read the poems within, written by the Iraqi poet Adhab al-Rikaby, who was also a guest at the forum.
This was his third collection of haiku (Sparrows are not a Breed of Wind), and what other genre of poetry should you read amidst the hospitality of nature? The haiku poem, as al-Rikaby says, is a poem that does not lean on the rhythm of nature only to be immortal, but to be a life, a joy and a dream.
The first joy that overwhelmed me that day, was reading the poem below, where the dew apologizes . . . but not the bee! I read the poem in an audible voice to a bee that was buzzing around me, then flying to land on the leaves of a tree. We enjoyed the poem . . . me and the bee..
From ‘Sparrows Are Not a Breed of Wind’
Poems by Adhab Al -Rikaby
Translated from Arabic by Buthaina Al Nasiri
ميلادٍ زهرةِ البنفسجِ
The dew apologizes
for not attending
the birth of the violet
as do nightingales and sparrows . . .
على أنَّ صداقة َ
Sparrows and bulbuls
are a lie . . . and
The lonely sparrow envies
the branch of the tree
And the branch envies
for its wandering
ترى الزهرةُ نفسَها
يرى الجبلُ نفسَهُ
يرى العصفورُ نفسَهُ
The flower fancies itself
The mountain fancies itself
The sparrow fancies itself
And the lover fancies himself
all of these!
!شجرة ُ الصفصاف
The murmur of water
stirs no feeling
inside the willow tree
The Book of Rain
is the last thing
a desert would think
Winter gives away
،بعودتهِ إلى الحياةِ
And celebrating its rebirth
Summer offers visitors
sweet water . . .
،يُنهي أحلامَهُ صيفٌ
يتركُ كرسيَّ السلطةِ
Winter yields a Spring
Spring’s dreams are ruined by
Summer, without farewell
من وجهِ الشتاءِ
The sparrow divines
the advent of Spring
from a sallow-faced Winter
العصافيرُ ضرورة ً
،في نهارٍ عاصفٍ
الأزهارُ ضرورة ً
لكسبِ ودِّ عاصفةٍ
الصحراءُ ضرورة ً
!على رسائلِ المطر
Sparrows see no need
to cheer freedom.
On a windy day,
flowers see no need
to win a strong storm’s favor.
And the desert sees no need
to answer the messages of rain!
Adhab Al Rikaby is an Iraqi poet and literary critic who lives in Alexandria, Egypt. He began publishing in 1979 and has brought out 13 books of verse and 18 works of literary criticism. He is considered a pioneer of Arabic haiku.
Buthaina Al Nasiri is an Iraqi author who has lived in Cairo since 1979. Her short-story collection Final Night was translated to English by Denys Johnson-Davies.
Short stories in our stay-at-home series:
Tareq Emam’s ‘The Tale of the Woman with One Eye,’ translated by Katherine Van de Vate
Zakaria Tamer’s ‘The Flower,’ tr. Marilyn Hacker
Lock-in Limited Release: Naguib Mahfouz’s ‘The Man in the Picture’, tr. Karim Zidan
Ali el-Makk’s ‘Forty-One Minarets’, tr. Adil Babikir
‘Eyes Shut’ by Rami Tawil, tr. Nashwa Gowanlock
Bushra Fadil’s ‘Phosphorus at the Bottom of a Well.’ tr. Mustafa Adam
Belal Fadl’s 2007 satire “Into the Tunnel,” tr. Nariman Youssef
Poems in our stay-at-home series
Ghareeb Iskander’s ‘A Letter to Adil’, translated by Hassan Abdulrazzaq
4 Poems by Jan Dost, translated by Mey Dost
Issa Hassan Al-Yasiri’s ‘A Primitive Prayer for Uruk,’ translated by Ghareeb Iskander, with thanks to Hassan Abdulrazzak
‘A Street in the Pandemic’ & Other Poems by Jawdat Fakhreddine, tr. Huda Fakhreddine
Essays in our stay-at-home series
Hisham Bustani’s ‘Eyes without a Face, or: Waiting with Billy Idol in Jordan’
Cartoons in our stay-at-home series
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