The New Noah

By Adonis b. 1930 Adonis

Translated By Shawkat M. Toorawa Read the translator's notes

                         1

We travel upon the Ark, in mud and rain,
Our oars promises from God.   
We live—and the rest of Humanity dies.   
We travel upon the waves, fastening
Our lives to the ropes of corpses filling the skies.
But between Heaven and us is an opening,
A porthole for a supplication.

"Why, Lord, have you saved us alone
From among all the people and creatures?
And where are you casting us now?
To your other Land, to our First Home?
Into the leaves of Death, into the wind of Life?
In us, in our arteries, flows a fear of the Sun.
We despair of the Light,
We despair, Lord, of a tomorrow
In which to start Life anew.

If only we were not that seedling of Creation,
Of Earth and its generations,
If only we had remained simple Clay or Ember,
Or something in between,
Then we would not have to see   
This World, its Lord, and its Hell, twice over."

                         2

If time started anew,
and waters submerged the face of life,
and the earth convulsed, and that god
rushed to me, beseeching, "Noah, save the living!"
I would not concern myself with his request.
I would travel upon my ark, removing   
clay and pebbles from the eyes of the dead.
I would open the depths of their being to the flood,
and whisper in their veins   
that we have returned from the wilderness,   
that we have emerged from the cave,
that we have changed the sky of years,
that we sail without giving in to our fears—
that we do not heed the word of that god.
Our appointment is with death.   
Our shores are a familiar and pleasing despair,
a gelid sea of iron water that we ford   
to its very ends, undeterred,
heedless of that god and his word,
longing for a different, a new, lord.

Source: Poetry (April 2007).

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This poem originally appeared in the April 2007 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2007

Biography

Arab poet, translator, editor, and theorist Ali Ahmad Said Esber was the eldest of six children born to a family of farmers in Syria’s Al Qassabin village. Though they could not afford the cost of formal education, Adonis’s father taught his son to read and helped him memorize poems while he worked on the family farm. At fourteen, Adonis recited a poem to the president of Syria during his visit a neighboring town, after which . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Travels & Journeys, Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Religion, God & the Divine, Islam, The Spiritual

POET’S REGION Middle East

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