Summer of Lock-in Lit: Poems from ‘Sparrows Are Not a Breed of Wind’

“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





والعنادلُ والعصافيرُ

عن حضورِ

ميلادٍ زهرةِ البنفسجِ




The dew apologizes

for not attending

the birth of the violet

as do nightingales and sparrows . . .

but not

the bee!



العصافيرِ والبلابلِ


على أنَّ صداقة َ




Sparrows and bulbuls

agree that

friendly storms

are a lie . . . and

an illusion




العصفورُ الوحيد

غصنَ الشجرةِ

على استقرارهِ

ويحسدُ الغصنُ


على أسفارهِ


The lonely sparrow envies

the branch of the tree

its stability.

And the branch envies

the sparrow

for its wandering

and freedom




 ترى الزهرةُ نفسَها

 ،ملكة ً

يرى الجبلُ نفسَهُ


يرى العصفورُ نفسَهُ



..العاشقُ نفسَهُ

 !!كلَّ هؤلاءِ


The flower fancies itself

a queen,

The mountain fancies itself

an emperor,

The sparrow fancies itself

a musician,

And the lover fancies himself

all of these!



 لا يثيرُ

خريرُ الماءِ

أيَّ إحساسٍ


!شجرة ُ الصفصاف


The murmur of water

stirs no feeling

inside the willow tree



 كتابُ المطرِ


ما تُفكّرُ


 !!في قراءتهِ


The Book of Rain

is the last thing

a desert would think

to read





بعيدِ ميلادهِ

يُوّزعُ الشتاءُ


أثوابَ الثلجِ



To celebrate

its birthday

Winter gives away

free garments

of snow

and rain





،بعودتهِ إلى الحياةِ

يُقدّمُ الصّيفُ


..الماءَ العذبَ



And celebrating its rebirth

Summer offers visitors

sweet water . . .

and fruit





،يُثمرُ ربيعاً


،يُنهي أحلامَهُ صيفٌ


،بلا سلامٍ

يتركُ كرسيَّ السلطةِ



Winter yields a Spring

Spring’s dreams are ruined by


Summer, without farewell

cedes authority

to Autumn






،قدومَ الربيعِ

من وجهِ الشتاءِ



The sparrow divines

the advent of Spring

from a sallow-faced Winter




لا ترى

العصافيرُ ضرورة ً

لمديح الحريةِ

،في نهارٍ عاصفٍ

لا ترى

الأزهارُ ضرورة ً

لكسبِ ودِّ عاصفةٍ


لا ترى

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 satireInto 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

Popeye & Curly


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