Adonis    Selected Poems of A Major Arab Poet

An Elegy For Al-Hallaj

Your green poisonous plume,
your plume whose veins are filled with flames,
with the star rising from Baghdad,
is our history and imminent resurrection
in our land - in our repeated death.
Time lay upon your hands.
And the fire in your eyes
is sweeping, reaching the sky.
0, star rising from Baghdad,
laden with poetry and new birth,
0, poisonous green plume.
Nothing is left
for those coming from afar
with the echo and death and ice
in this land of resurrection.
Nothing is left but you and the presence.
0, you the language of Galilean thunder
in this land of discarded skins.
You, poet of the roots and mysteries.

The Language Of Sin

I burn my inheritance, I say:
"My land is virgin, and no graves in my youth."
I transcend both God and Satan
(my path goes beyond the paths of God and Satan).
I go across in my book,
in the procession of the luminous thunderbolt,
the procession of the green thunderbolt,
"After me there's no Paradise, no Fall,"
and abolishing the language of sin.

The Face Of A Woman

I dwell in the face of a woman
who dwells in a wave
flung by the tide
to a shore that has lost it s harbor
in its shells.
I live in the face of a woman
who murders me,
who desires to be
a dead beacon
in my blood sailing
to the very end of madness.

Neither The Ash Nor The Wind Am I

My bed is farther and more salacious/ cages deserted roads
the horse of the past is ashes and the pigment of God
is a different colour

No Hand Over Me

'Ali is the eternity of fire and childhood
       do you hear the lightning
of the centuries hear the heaving of their footsteps ? Is the road a book or a hand?
      The finger of dust is like a dervish singing the dominion of myths
      O, give us a homeland bring near the cities shake the trees of dreams change the trees of slumber the speech of the heavens to the Earth
A child wanders aimlessly baffled
under the navel of a black woman searching
a child grows up.
And the Earth has a blind god dying...


to faces ambling in the loneliness of the desert,
to the East draped in grass and fire peace to the Earth
washed by the sea peace to its passion...

Your thunderbolt of nakedness grants me its rains thunder grips me in my breast Time has fermented O, advance this is my blood the glow of the East scoop me and vanish lose me the thunderclap is for your legs the lightning scoop me take my body as lining for your body  my fire is the orientation and the planet my wound is guidance I spell...

I spell a star which I paint,
running away from my homeland in my homeland.
I spell a star which he paints
in the footsteps of his vanquished days.
O, ashes of the Word.
Does my history have a child in your night?

Nothing Remains But Madness

I glimpse it now on the windows of the house,
sleepless amongst the sleepless stones,
like a child taught by a witch
that in the sea there is a woman
carrying his history in a ring,
and that she will appear
when the flames in the fireplace subside ...

...And I saw history in a black banner
marching like a forest
I wrote no chronicles

I live in the longing the fire the revolution,
in the magic of their creative poison.
My homeland is nothing but this spark,
this lightning in the darkness of everlasting Time...


The Little Time / 2

Where does the distance end? Where does fear cease to reign?
I summon the void. I empty the full. Even flint is soft, even sand originates in water.
Why the roads, why the arrival?
Astray, astray, and I'll not return. Falling is my state and condition; paradise is my contrary.
A wedding I am; and I announce the attractiveness of death. I am the clouds, and know no dryness; I am aridity and have no clouds.
I hide behind the riddle, hide under the gowns of the seasons
and peep through their holes. I grant my steps their form
and say unto the sea: Follow me.
Trees are leaves in my notebooks; stones are verses like me. I'll abrade the skin of the horizon, make it bleed and flow. I'll fly between the wound and the wound.
We divide space between us: Death and I.
We raise the banner of famine: Bread and I.
And tomorrow I'll get entangled in the garments of the legend and climb the wall of shadows. Then, a procession of psalms of stone will cling to me.
O, Madness, my master, my Christ.

I search for a sun that dwells in the eyes, for eyes which behold the light - all of the light.
I seek a tree trunk which turns into a body. I seek what gives the word a sex organ and pierces the sky.
I seek what gives to stone the lips of children, to history a rainbow and to the songs the larynxes of trees.
I seek what extends the rippling frontiers, the frontiers invisible between the sea and the rocks, the clouds and the sands, daylight and night.
I seek what unifies our accents: God and I, Satan and I, the world and I; and what sows between us the seeds of conflict.

O, Spirit of quest, O, my vessel.

A Song Of He

I have not said, O, brother, You are dead.
I have said: You will go, and you know what is coming.
Your steps have halted, but your shadow
still extends with a child's hands.
I wonder:
Are you still alive?
Are my eyes your eyes?
Is death mirrors between us?
I see what you have seen,
translate myself to myself.
Are we, I wonder, a single body
sharing the bread of tragedy,
the bread of love and life?
Two strangers, two gaunt, down-trodden figures.?
I cry: I am the Karbula'* of yearning.
And you shout: O, my master, al-Husain.

A Song To The Secret

Leave him to his secrets.
He seats the sea at times on his lap,
and at times below his window.
Leave him to his secrets.
He masquerades with grass,
or wears the face of stone.
Leave him to his secrets.
He is a field of love
which changes with every season,
turning over the trees in his palms.

A Song To Languages

All these languages, these fragments,
are leaven
for the cities to come.
Change the structure of the noun, the verb, the letter;
No veils remain between us,
no dams.
And delight your hearts with the fatihas*
of the Suras* of desire
and the ecstasies of their sealed heavens.

Unbounded Flights

For angels forged of silver and lead,
for sands trailing their golden cloaks,
collapsing and sobbing in the cage of the alphabet,

his land is the lung bleeding,
as a river loses its course,
and lightning its flashing flame;
and I see it slumbering.

Yet, I confront these deserts,
as though I were the dawn of speech.
I say without surprise:
A time of desire and widows of metal
and the place is splitting apart.
-This place has always been splitting apartt;
has been maps of mustiness and dust.
Always has this place been
splintering in two fists
of siege and devouring.

Yet, I confront this labyrinth,
as though I were the dawn of speech.
And I say without surprise:
A star appeared and was devoured by ants,
and I repeat that smoke
is the nuptial of the winds.
O, winds,
accept what remains of my body :
two roses, my anxiety and my yearning,
weave out of them your invisible shawls,
and let them be our greeting
to wandering and its Arabian ruins.

And I say without surprise:
This homeland is no more than a conjecture,
and it is now....
- Don't utter a word.
Have you gone mad, or have the visions led you astray ?
And it is now a cemetery: a metallic policeman, burial of the living,
and where are you from ?

Had you crossed the borders here and there,
and seen the ones who yearn for light
folded as clothing
and dumped into bottomless pits of darkness,
you would have wished that all speech became
destruction and raging fires,
would have torn these maps, these banners,
and would have, like me, blasphemed.
This homeland is no more than a bit of a conjecture.

And I say without surprise:
The millions are green ; from them arise the voice and the echo,
and I am the wolf of this space,
the only one who suffers the agonies of death,
and stumbles astray,
no star, no guidance,
lost between one field and another,
groping for the veins of grass,
and asking each flower
about its sister.

And I say without surprise:
Console me, O, time of weariness.
I have come to like crouching by the rock of the impossible,
like a child who loves travelling
in space,
mounting the back of a reed.

- Do not say: Despair and escapism.
The wind escapes in order to embrace the Earth,
and despair opens its regal doors
to the explosions of the orbits.
Say: A bearer of ill tidings.
And listen to the witness hiding
behind the trunks of palm trees,
and read the witness inscribed with dates and ginger
in leaves of silk...
And I say without surprise to the dew:
Have you seen the place, experienced the fields?
Are those covering them people or plants?
Thus I dare to adore the dew
and sing for it,
flowing as though early dawn were its banks,
opening its bags like letters between the branches of trees.
What do your hands carry?
For whom does the horizon write its secrets?
Is the road stretching along your banks another blood,
an adventurous gleam,
or a gasping poet?

And I say without surprise:
My amazement is that I have not yet aged,
that this wreckage
has only bestowed greater splendour
upon me.
- Here is a rose lusting
to be a woman in his arms.
- Here are his extinguished fires
beginning to glow.

And now I am a child,
as though the moon were bells
in my footsteps .
I say without surprise:
I have my passion,
my everlasting intoxication .
The letters are women who whisper to me whatever they desire,
and to them I grant my unbounded flights.
And, free of all illusions, I declare:
This is my life-
Sparks and horses of light,
bolting out of the chariots of images.

Another Song To He

They girdle him with their eyelashes
and cast their shade over his body.
Amongst them, he is like a soul
love is a throne,
and the sun in his hands
is an incense burner.
And around him,
their myths grow taller.
How, when and whence do I enter into this throng ?
And I am only the story - teller, only the narrator.
I am nothing but the echo
watchful at his prophetic door-
the echo,
and the throes of death of words.

The Beginning Of Sweeping

Don't say:" You have gone mad."
My madness is your dreams/ we've come
and painted the fields
a body in bloom.
We used to say:
"If only we would come and rape the universe."
And we have come.

He who sees you sees me --- I, the primordial rose.
In the ashes of evening I broke,
with dawn I perfumed my roots- my downy leaves
gathered as a ladder
Is that the voice of someone approaching?
Or footsteps fading away ?

He who sees you sees me --- I, who reveals
the secret thoughts
and offers himself to thunder:
this is a shaft of light.
Change the image of nature,
mix rock with wings, ecstasy with tragedy.
Everything on Earth is new
My face an open space,
and the distance the beginning of eyes.

He who sees you sees me
We screamed:
"There is no path but the path of fire."   We've come.
No coming unless it strikes as lightning;
and we've come.
Prisons are still growing ;
exiles flutter with eyelashes;
fear is raging, and those possessed by fear
are leaves.
Prisons are growing
And they fall upon poetry in cloaks, in corners,
invoking their canonical rules,
and walking in a space of beads.

And I am the one who shatters all rules,
I, the primordial womb.

And they say: "This is obscurity."
And they say: "This is a world of absence."

O, regal lust,
take my words into your world of absence.
Take my steps into your world of absence.
And bolt and take me,
O, regal lust.

If you see at the university gate
a star, take her by the hand.
If you see at the university gate
a planet, embrace him...
We wrote on the university gate:
Histories are crumbling.
The fires are ravaging .
Our steps
are flames penetrating the corpse of the Earth.
We uproot the family
to establish friendship/ Sing.
Sing for the fractures which cover this time with wounds,
for this is the time of crumbling

Sing for the devouring tragedy.
Make room for the chained body
to give a feast for nature,
make room for its songs.

Sauntering you have come, submerged
in the ocean of Arab blood.
More luscious you have come
than a thunderbolt.

Don't say:" You've gone mad."
My madness is your dreams
      we've come,
descended into the darkness, broken its lanterns, and come
like a land yearning for rain/ we've come
like thunder draped in clouds
A promise:
You will be dawn,
and Time will be balconies for our dreams...

Everything is new on Earth; the alphabet is flames,
and madness a voyage between it and me,
a horizon
spelling the invisible frontiers.
And our name is one-

I've rooted myself in trees that never die.
I've seen the steps, and seen the houses
crumbling, crumbling
These are my sparks.

The distance is pregnant.
Our name is one- and we are sweeping.
This is our space:
to shatter the orbits, to be nothing
but this madness

The Beginning Of Speech

That child I had been
came once to me
a strange face.

He said nothing . We walked,
each glancing at the other in silence; our steps
a river flowing estranged.

In the name of the leaves strewn in the wind,
the origins brought us together.
Then we departed,
a forest inscribed by the Earth,
and narrated by the seasons.

O, child that I once was, come near.
What is there now to draw us together ?
And what is there to say ?

Four Songs For The Bundle Of Reeds

1- The Hungry Man
(A Dream )

Hunger paints on his notebook
stars or roads,
and covers the leaves
with veils of dreams.
We glimpsed
a sun of love fluttering its eyelashes,
and glimpsed
a rising dawn.

2 - Sleep and Rising from Sleep

In his sleep, he fashions a model
for a rampant revolution
which embraces the rising future.

Then he awakens;
his days become
a parrot
lamenting the passing night
and his vanished dreams.

3- The People
(A Dream)

The trees gathered
laden, like fruits, with screams and yearning,
and marched
along the riverbanks.
Thunder rattled them
as though it were sparks.

The trees were struck dumbfounded
in sorrow over their captive birds
on the other side of the river's flank.

4- Wrath
( A Dream )

The Euphrates is enraged.
Its banks are filled with larynxes,
towers of shocks and thunder;
and the waves are horses.

I saw dawn with its tresses cut,
I saw the water, its roaring sharpened,
flowing, embracing its spears.

The Euphrates is enraged.
Neither the fire, nor the prayers
will extinguish that wounded wrath.

Charms For The Cities Of Al-Ghazali

1 - The Body of A Pebble

That which I have called the history and the beginning
is smooth, closed, and lifeless
like the body of a pebble.
That which grants us its providence
is a spider's bed.
The waters in the Orantes and Euphrates
are ink.
The desert of footsteps is words
or papers, no difference.
And the citadels, bundled up, are running .
A bare night. No dreams, no rays.

No ; you are not a water lily,
nor a bunch of the roses of brotherhood.
Neither inspiration nor prophecy,
nor a wakeful star by the bridge
reading the waters of the river.

No body in you reads,
no body asks questions .
You are a tyrant
who bakes bread
out of the victims' bodies.
Nor are you
the breasts of a virgin
in a festival for love.

....A skin you are;
no more than a goat's skin,
even if you procreate, hire a husband
and come to people in a silken dress
and with a human countenance.

And I am Fate, I am the way.
I shake the sea.
My death is a ship,
and my remains
an alphabet
or an imminent explosion.

2 - Had You Dwelled

Had you dwelled, as I said, in my voice,
you would have found the right path
and its orbit of ascendance ;
you would have draped yourself
in the garments of the travellers,
who drink the suns and their dimensions
in their enthralling trance.

And would have quenched your thirst.

Had you dwelled, as I said, in my voice,
you would have become the word of divination
and its rainbow-like lighthouses
between our paper-like days
and the snows of the distance.

And would have found the right path.

3 - The Foundation

In order for it to stand erect,
in order for it to be,
grip its hand this way
and hold its face.
Invent a spark;
devour its belt and motionless shoulder,
and pull to the left
its stubborn axis;
and move the crouching corner.

alter the base and stones
and change the foundation...


Translated by Kamal Abu-Deeb

Adonis : Syrian-Lebanese poet, literary critic, translator, and editor, a highly influential figure in Arabic poetry and literature, Adonis ( 'Ali Ahmad Sa'id ) was born in 1930 in Syria. Harassed for his political views, Adonis spent part of his service in jail. After leaving his native country in 1956, Adonis settled in Lebanon. "I write in a language that exiles me," he once said, "Being a poet means that I have already written but that I have actually written nothing. Poetry is an act without a beginning or an end. It is really a promise of a beginning, a perpetual beginning." His name has become synonymous with the Hadatha (modernism) in Arabian poetry. At times, Adonis's poetry is both revolutionary and anarchic; at other times, it approaches the mystical. His mysticism derives essentially from the writings of the Sufi poets. Here he aspires to reveal the underlying unity between the contradictory aspects of man's existence and the fundamental similarity of the outwardly dissimilar elements of the universe. But although his poetry appears to be polarized between the mystical and the revolutionary, it often dissolves these two poles into a single harmonized vision, which gives his work its distinctive character. His struggle to invent a new poetic language and his aspiration to change Socio-political realities often fuse to produce a new poetics--- a poetics which asserts the power of human creativity to reveal the hidden (al-batin) enshrouded by the manifest (al-zahir). The lucidity, elegance, and the opulence of the rhythmic structure of some of Adonis's early poetry contrast sharply with the complexity and  absence of regular rhythmic patterning of some of his later poems. He is a poet of paradoxes and extremes, who seems to transcend himself in every new work. Recently, he advocated 'writing' as opposed to 'poetry', suggesting that a poetic text should go beyond the traditional concept of genre to become a total poem incorporating a multiplicity of levels, languages, forms and rhythmic structures. The literary and cultural critic Edward Said calls him "today's most daring and provocative Arab poet." The poet Samuel Hazo, who translated Adonis's collection "The Pages of Day and Night," said, "There is Arabic poetry before Adonis, and there is Arabic poetry after Adonis." Experimental in style and prophetic in tone, Adonis's poetry combines the formal innovations of modernism with the mystical imagery of classical Arabic poetry. He has evoked the anguish of exile, the spiritual desolation of the Arab world, the intoxicating experiences of madness and erotic bliss, the existential dance of self and the other. But what defines his work, above all, is the force of creative destruction, which burns through everything he writes. "We will die if we do not create gods / We will die if we do not kill them," he once wrote.

A MetaNym Visualization