to al-Baghdadi, the pasha of Fez

11-08 Assaraj
Mohammed Ben Brahim Assarraj
Moroccan
1897 – 1955

 

To extinguish the coals smoldering in his heart
He makes a river spring through his eyelids, flooding his torso.
In fact, there are tears that in their very abundance ease the heart.
Let ours thus flow:
Better than anyone we do appreciate the scope of our misery.
To face such misfortune I turned toward patience,
But patience, itself impatient, abandoned me.
What is there more unbelievable than to see
Shepherds set themselves up as overlords and legislate?

Here’s a “weird one” who’s never had anything but rope as a belt,
An idiot who has ever only led sheep into the mountains,
And now he’s become the master of Fez!
He mistreats and tortures the city’s youthful elite:
In such extremities it is to God alone that one addresses one’s complaint,
From Him alone can deliverance come.
The echo of these calamities has crossed the borders:
Young people who are being sequestered, tortured, humiliated
Though they have committed no crime.
Let this coarse man be told that his whip
Makes ten million Moroccans groan:
There are those among them who keep silent, not knowing how to express their pain;
Others, to the contrary, who’ve had enough and who cry out—
They all suffer the pain that eats them up.
Can you imagine a sick person ignoring his pain?
They have not been subjected… while being subject.
Let’s suppose they’re at fault: their due then is a just
Judgment, one that doesn’t err because of blunders or excess.

Seven Birds

We present this work in honor of the Moroccan holiday, Green March Day.

11-06 Bennis
Mohammed Bennis
Moroccan
b. 1948

 

A White Bird

A breath condenses
Even density can be pleasant
Each wall widens its cracks
And retains the call
A height that remains a height
Springs that have gathered the winds of the fields

A Red Bird

It may have travelled the river in one night
The road may have guided it through the upper layers
I ponder the mystery of its redness
Then forget the sky
That has taken it
There

A Green Bird

There are sleeping feathers before me
Feathers that blast me with the fire of distance
And feathers without a body that bend
And collect
In a point
Between us speech is fluttering

A Blue Bird

So drunk in the evening it’s almost unable to return
It would prefer that departure go on
Without departure
Reflections
Of light in the pool
Grow longer

A Black Bird

Each thing wants to emulate it
Water in the pots
Words on their birthdays
Caravans across borders
A girl not yet wet with dew

But the thrush
Emulates only
Itself
It stays on branches of joy

A Yellow Bird

That window remains open for it
as they sit face to face and
the bird stays because of
an approaching silence until
without even pecking the grains it
soars just as its past did just as
its future will at dawn

A Colorless Bird

Elated it chirps on one of the nights of solitude
Before it flies
Where light unites with vibration
A draft that startles
Its visitor with a wing whose recurrent glitter
Is ever-changing and I can see it from a distance
It flies
So that what I see
Is this thing that resembles nothing distant

Maxims

08-22 Ajiba
Ahmad Ibn Ajiba
Moroccan
1747 – 1809

 

If one did not stop in the shadows of things,
the heart would be illuminated by the sun of gnosis.

If it were not for shackles and obstacles,
the suns of realities would be seen to shine.

If there were neither individual will nor free will,
the shadow of otherness would withdraw from the heart.

If there were not passions and desires,
aspirations would become real in less than the wink of an eye.

If there were not bad tendencies and defects,
invisible secrets would make themselves manifest.

Without the struggle with oneself,
the secret of the elect would not appear.

Without the company of true men,
no one knows how to distinguish imperfection from perfection.

Without the company of the great,
the hearts and their depths cannot be purified.

Without the service of true men,
no one can reach the degrees of perfection.

The City and the Country

06-24 Al Yusi
Al-Yusi
Moroccan
1631 – 1691

 

Man resorts to the urban mode of living to enjoy commerce and industry,
and all the other techniques his system of living can accommodate,
and also to gain mutual aid, and in view of religious or secular advantages.
In general, all of this can only be achieved by the gathering of many people
likely to furnish the markets, each trade, art, technique, or activity
lending one or more specialists. Now, these conditions are not present
inside a single family, or even inside a single tribe.
They result from the variety of the mix and the size of the mass.
This is so for two reasons. First, because such is the opinion of the collectivity
that takes on those needs. And then, because natural law does not want
a small group to keep the exclusivity of knowledge, or have sole use and possession
of religious or secular advantages, or free itself from other creaturely characteristics
so as to constitute an order proper and useful to itself,
by excluding any consideration of the others.
To the contrary, in His solicitude and wisdom,
God has widely distributed qualifications and advantages among the humans.
Thus it is that one finds a savant among such and such a group, a poet among another,
in yet another an artisan or a merchant, in such manner that mutual aid
can be complete and that everyone can participate in God’s beneficence
by taking on a specific task.

The Salutation of Ibm Mashish

06-10 Mashish
Abdeslam Ibn Mashish Alami
Moroccan
1163 – 1228

 

O Allah shower Your blessings upon him from whom burst open the secrets,
From whom stream forth the lights,
And in whom rise up the realities,
And upon whom descended the sciences of Adam, by which all creatures are made powerless,
And blessings upon him before whom all understanding is diminished.
None of us totally comprehend him, whether in the past or the future.
The gardens of the spiritual kingdom blossom ornately with the resplendence of his beauty,
And the reservoirs of the World of Dominion overflow with the outpouring of his light.
There is nothing that is not connected to him,
Because if there were no intercessor, everything to be interceded for would vanish, as it is said.
So bless him with a prayer that is worthy of You, from You, as befits his stature.
O Allah indeed he is Your all-encompassing secret that leads through You to You
And he is Your Supreme Veil raised before You, between Your Hands.
O Allah include me among his descendants and confirm me through his account
And let me know him with a deep knowledge that keeps me safe from the wells of ignorance,
So that I might drink to fullness from the wells of excellence.
Carry me on his path to Your Presence
Encompassed by Your Victory,
And strike through me at the false so that I may destroy it.
Plunge me into the seas of Oneness,
Pull me out of the morass of metaphorical Unity,
And drown me in the Essence of the Ocean of Unicity
Until I neither see, nor hear, nor find, nor sense, except through It.
O Allah make the Supreme Veil the life of my spirit
And his soul the secret of my reality
And his reality the conflux of my worlds
Through the realization of the First Truth.
O First! O Last! O Manifest! O Most Hidden!
Hear my call as You heard the call of your servant Zachary
And grant me victory through You for You,
And support me through You, for You,
And join me to You
And come between myself and anything other than You—

The Storm

We present this work in honor of Eid al-Fitr.

Mohammad ben Sliman
Moroccan
? – 1792

 

Friends, yesterday my beloved visited; it was the middle of Ramadan,
and it was as if I had gathered honey and roses,
but I was accused of breaking the fast—
why shouldn’t I have done so, after so much solitude!
Isn’t the sick person advised not to fast?

After the long drought, the storm makes its drum rumble;
saber at the ready, lightning routs the defeated cavalry;
while the wind, that intrepid rider,
after a short rest is ready to rumble.

The downpour attacks, standard flying,
victorious showers that have the torrents on the run,
and wherever the eye turns
my overflowing heart sees only green.

From the fields in bloom rises perfume—
spring, a king with no rival,
and restful shade
have invented marvelous new clothes.

Joyous inventor, Spring dispenses his riches:
roses, wild flowers, concerts of birdsong—
in a festive garden
where the bee gathers nectar among the roses.

Friends, yesterday my beloved visited; it was the middle of Ramadan,
and it was as if I had gathered honey and roses,
but I was accused of breaking the fast—
why shouldn’t I have done so, after so much solitude!
Isn’t the sick person advised not to fast?

Kunwar Narain

Ibn Battuta
Moroccan 1304 – 1369

 

Who are these people, impaled on sharp bamboo poles,
blood spurting from their bodies?
Marvels Ibn Battuta in the forests of Ma’bar.

So dark even by day,
or is the Sultan blind?
I catch a glimpse through his blind eyes
of a page of history,
flapping in the pale light of torches:
in this barbarous ritual,
who are these half-dead women and children,
their hands and feet ripped apart
one by one from their frail bodies?
Are they infidels or humans?
Who are these around me
that keep on drinking
despite the laws of sharia?

There is no one. There is nothing.
It’s all a bad dream.
None of this is happening today.
It was all a very long time ago—
the era of prehistoric beats of prey:
I am not a witness to it… Sultan,
allow me to leave;
it is time for my prayers.

Eternity Comes Down on the Side of Love

We present this work in honor of Morocco’s Proclamation of Independence.

Abdelmajid Benjelloun
Moroccan
b. 1944

 

I don’t love myself although I am my closest neighbor.

The image of a man leaping on the Moon is no more extraordinary than the immobile stone.

This man is ill. His illness is social. His illness is called hate. He lives, but takes care of himself by hating others.

This comic copies someone who doesn’t exist.

It’s the barque shows the waves in the sea.

Peace is not for export, war is.

There are curtesies rendered for lack for nobleness.

She brings me a glass of thirst. She drinks it with me.

My hands complete, O wonder, the stone in her breasts!

Rock drawings await me at a young girl’s. I must copy them onto my life. Whether she knows it or not.

Steps, sparks on the journey.

Silence, a side effect of the infinite.

Funny: the raindrop fallen on a tree keeps clinging to the branch before dropping to the ground.

A certain poet withdraws into the world.

What I love in this Flemish painter: he paints the inaudible.

A stone: feet planted in silence, head in immobility.

Inert, the stone can face the absolute.

Inertness rises from the stone like the very first dream.

For the stone, immobility is work.