On Love

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 1040th birthday.

Abu Ali, the Mathematician
Persian
980 – 1037

 

I never knew a sprightly fair
That was not dear to me;
And freely I my heart could share
With every one I see.

It is not this or that alone
On whom my choice would fall:
I do not more incline to one
Than I incline to all.

The circle’s bounding line are they;
Its centre is my heart;
My ready love, the equal ray
That flows to every part.

Graves

We present this work in honor of Tisha B’Av.

Moses ben Jacob ibn Ezra
Arab Andalusian
c. 1055 – c. 1138

 

And where are the graves, so many graves
Of all who have died on the earth since the beginning?
Grave tunnelling into grave,
Headstone and obelisk crumbled into one dust,
Bodies heaped upon bodies, in motionless orgy—
All sleeping together in deep holes,
Fragments of chalk,
Stained rubies.

I Look Up to the Sky

We present this work in honor of Shavout.

Samuel ibn Naghrillah
Arab Andalusian
993 – 1056

 

I look up to the sky and the stars,
And down to the earth and the things that creep there.
And I consider in my heart how their creation
Was planned with wisdom in every detail.
See the heavens above like a tent,
Constructed with loops and with hooks,
And the moon with its stars, like a shepherdess
Sending her sheep into the reeds;
The moon itself among the clouds,
Like a ship sailing under its banners;
The clouds like a girl in her garden
Moving, and watering the myrtle-trees;
The dew-mist—a woman shaking
Drops from her hair to the ground.
The inhabitants turn, like animals, to rest,
(Their palaces are their stables);
And all fleeing from the fear of death,
Like a dove pursued by the falcon.
And these are compared at the end to a plate
Which is smashed into innumerable shards.

The Incense Burner

Abus Salt
Arab Andalusian
1067 – 1134

 

Though its heart was all aflame.
Yet it never knew that same
Grief of parting, and that woe
Sundered lovers know.

When the lightning of the wine
Bathed the drinkers in its shine,
What a brave cloud billowed thence
Sweet with frankincense!
Never saw I, all my days,
Such a conflagration blaze
To persuade the revellers
Paradise was theirs.

My Heart

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 1,025th birthday.

Ibn Hazm
Arab Andalusian
994 – 1064

 

I would split open my heart
with a knife, place you
within and seal my would,
that you might dwell there
and never inhabit another
until the resurrection and
judgment day — thus you
would stay in my heart
while I lived, and at my death
you too would die in the
entrails of my core, in
the shadow of my tomb.

My Beloved Comes

We present this work in honor of the 955th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Ibn Hazm
Arab Andalusian
994 – 1064

 

You came to me just before
the Christians rang their bells.
The half-moon was rising
looking like an old man’s eyebrow
or a delicate instep.

And although it was still night
when you came a rainbow
gleamed on the horizon,
showing as many colours
as a peacock’s tail.