from Quartet of Joy, Air Joy

Muhammad Afifi Matar
1935 – 2010


I become light; you become light;
Neither are you from you,
nor I from me;
we have ripened into one blood…

—One dead,
how will death be split into two corpses?

—It is one corpse.

—What if the kin fought to fill
two dust holes with one dust
gathered by love in the prostration
of passion?

—Soft is the clay step in the clay;
beneath us the earth gathers into a carpet,
dust flinging upon dust;
and in the passion prostration
the blood of the man prostrating
does not reveal the blood of the woman prostrator;
one blood runs aground in the darkness
of the earth
beneath the hand of God,
then tossed by the wind
in the hand of omnipotence;
it rises lightly, taking its course
in the radiant mystery
of its nocturnal journeys,
largely, as the frame
of the universe exacts,
narrower than the sigh of spirit
in spirit.

Between heavens and earth
the wind was tempted by us,
for it steps along our steps,
and we step along its steps…

Translation by Ferial Ghazoul and John Verlenden

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