My Art

Arab Andalusian
1212 – 1269


Tell the faqih on my behalf:
loving the beautiful one is my art.

My drink, with him from the glass,
and the hadra, with those gathered round,
Close by, good companions.
They lifted the weight from me.

Tell the faqih on my behalf:
loving the beautiful one is my art.

What kind of believer do you take me for?
The law revivifies me
and the truth annihilates me.
Know that I am a Sunni.

Tell the faqih on my behalf:
loving the beautiful one is my art.

And know that there is no one home
except you, so let’s get to the point.
Enter into the arena with me.
Have faith. Don’t push me away.

Tell the faqih on my behalf:
loving the beautiful one is my art.

If you could see me at home
when I raise the curtains
and my love is naked with me…
In union with him, I am made glad.

Tell the faqih on my behalf:
loving the beautiful one is my art.

So leave me be and spare me your delusions,
for you lust for yourself
and this world is your boudoir.
Wake up, you will see my beauty.

Tell the faqih on my behalf:
loving the beautiful one is my art.

Translation by Lourdes María Alvarez

Black Horse With White Chest

Ibn Sa’id Al-maghribi
Arab Andalusian
1213 – 1286


Black hindquarters, white chest:
he flies on the wings of the wind.

When you look at him you see dark night
opening, giving way to dawn.

Sons of Shem and Ham live harmoniously
in him, and take no care for the words
of would-be troublemakers.

Men’s eyes light up when they see
reflected in his beauty

the clear strong black and white
of the eyes of beautiful women.

Translation by Cola Franzen

Fragments from the Qasida in the Rhyme of Nun

Ibn Zaydun
Arab Andalusian
1003 – 1071


Now we are far apart
one from the other
my heart has dried up
but my tears keep falling.

In losing you my days
have turned black.
When I was with you
even my nights were white.

It’s as though we never spent
that night together
with no third presence
save our two selves made one,

a night our lucky star
caused even gossips
who would spy on us
to turn away their eyes.

We were two secrets
held by the heart of darkness
until the tongue of dawn
threatened to denounce us.

Translation by Cola Franzen

The Rooster

Ibn Billita
Arab Andalusian
961 – 1048


Up he stands
To declare the darkness done for
The bird trimmed with a poppy
Who rolls his lustrous eyes for us

With song he calls to prayer
And he complies with his call
Beating his great plumes
Flexing his shoulder knuckles

The Emperor of Persia
Perhaps wove his crown
Personally Mary the Copt
Hung pendant rings from his ears

He snatched from the peacock
His most attractive cloak
And still not comforted took
His strut from a duck

Translation by Cola Franzen

To the Soul

We present this work in honor of Simchat Torah.

Judah Halevi
Arab Andalusian
1075 – 1141


O thou, who springest gloriously
From thy Creator’s fountain blest,
Arise, depart, for this is not thy -rest!
The way is long, thou must preparèd be,
Thy Maker bids thee seek thy goal—
Return then to thy rest, my soul,
For bountifully has God dealt with thee.

Behold! I am a stranger here,
My days like fleeting shadows seem.
When wilt thou, if not now, thy life redeem?
And when thou seek’st thy Maker have no fear,
For if thou have but purified
Thy heart from stain of sin and pride,
Thy righteous deeds to him shall draw thee near.

O thou in strength who treadest, learn
To know thyself, cast dreams away!
The goal is distant far, and short the day.
What canst thou plead th’ Almighty’s grace to earn?
Would thou the glory of the Lord
Behold, O soul? With prompt accord
Then to thy Father’s house return, return!

From Al-Zahara

Ibn Zaydun
Arab Andalusian
1003 – 1071


With passion from this place
I remember you.
Horizon clear, limpid

The face of earth, and wind,
Come twilight, desists,
A tenderness sweeps me

When I see the silver.
Coiling waterways
Like necklaces detached

From throats. Delicious those
Days we spent while fate
Slept. There was peace, I mean,

And us, thieves of pleasure.
Now only flowers
Withfrost bent stems I see;

At my eyes their vivid
Centers pull, they gaze
Back at me, seeing me

Without sleep, and a light
Flickers through their cups,
In sympathy, I think.

The sun-baked rose-buds in
Bushes, remember
How their color had lit

Our morning air; and still
Breaths of wind dispense
At break of day, as then,

Perfume they gather up
From waterlilies’
Half open drowsy eyes.

Such fresh memories
Of you these few things
Waken in my mind. For

Faraway as you are
In this passion’s grip
I persist with a sigh

And pine to be at one
With you. Please God no
Calm or oblivion

Will occupy my heart,
Or close it. Listen
To the shiver of wings

At your side—it is my
Desire, and still, still
I am shaking with it

Pure love we once exchanged,
It was an unfenced
Field and we ran there, free

Like horses. But alone
I now can lay claim
To have kept faith. You left,

Left this place. In sorrow
To be here again,
l am loving you.

Translation by Christopher Middleton & Leticia Garza-Falcón

The Prisoner in Aghmāt Speaks to His Chains

Muhammad Ii Al-mu’tamid
Arab Andalusian
1040 – 1095


I say to my chains,
don’t you understand?
I have surrendered to you.
Why, then, have you no pity,
no tenderness?

You drank my blood.
You ate my flesh.
Don’t crush my bones.

My son Abu Hasim sees me
fettered by you and turns away
his heart made sore.

Have pity on an innocent boy
who never knew fear
and must now come begging to you.

Have pity on his sisters
innocent like him
who have had to swallow poison
and eat bitter fruit.

Some of them are old enough
to understand and I fear
they will go blind from weeping.

The others are now too young
to take it in and open theirs mouths
only to nurse.

Tranlsation by Cola Franzen