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The Wound

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The leaves asleep under the wind
are the wounds’ ship,
and the ages collapsed on top of each other
are the wound’s glory,
and the trees rising out of our eyelashes
are the wound’s lake.
The wound is to be found on bridges
where the grave lengthens
and patience goes on to no end
between the shores of our love and death.
The wound is a sign,
and the wound is a crossing too.
To the language choked by tolling bells
I offer the voice of the wound.
To the stone coming from afar
to the dried-up world crumbling to dust
to the time ferried on creaky sleighs
I light up the fire of the wound.
And when history burns inside my clothes
and when blue nails grow inside my books,
I cry out to the day,
“Who are you, who tosses you
into my virgin land?”
And inside my book and on my virgin land
I stare into a pair of eyes made of dust.
I hear someone saying,
“I am the wound that is born
and grows as your history grows.”
I named you cloud,
wound of the parting dove.
I named you book and quill
and here I begin the dialogue
between me and the ancient tongue
in the island of tomes
in the archipelago of the ancient fall.
And here I teach these words
to the wind and the palms,
O wound of the parting dove.
If I had a harbor in the land
of dreams and mirrors, if I had a ship,
if I had the remains
of a city, if I had a city
in the land of children and weeping,
I would have written all this down for the wound’s sake,
a song like a spear
that penetrates trees, stone, and sky,
soft like water
unbridled, startling like conquest.
Rain down on our desert
O world adorned with dream and longing.
Pour down, and shake us, we, the palms of the wound,
tear out branches from trees that love the silence of the wound,
that lie awake staring at its pointed eyelashes and soft hands.
World adorned with dream and longing
world that falls on my brow
like the lash of a wound,
don’t come close—the wound is closer—
don’t tempt me—the wound is more beautiful.
That magic that your eyes had flung
on the last kingdoms—
the wound has passed over it,
passed and did not leave a single sail
to tempt toward salvation, did not leave
a single island behind.

Adonis, “The Wound” from Selected Poems, translated by Khaled Mattawa. Copyright © 2010 by  Adonis. Reprinted by permission of Yale University Press.
Source: Selected Poems (Yale University Press, 2010)
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The Wound

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  • 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 the president offered to grant the boy’s request to attend school. With the president’s support, Adonis enrolled in a French high school and then Damascus University, where he earned a BA in philosophy.  
    In his late teens, he began writing under the name Adonis, after the Greek god of fertility. After a year in prison as a result of his political activity, Adonis moved to Beirut, where he found a rich community of...

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