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A Poem by Adonis
Translated By Kamal Abu Deeb


Hugging the ear of corn
of Time,
my head a tower of fire:
What blood is this that flows across the sand,
what eclipse is this?
Tell us, O, flame of the present,
what shall we say?

The tatters of history fill my larynx
and on my countenance the signs
of the victim.
How bitter language has now become,
and how narrow the door of the alphabet.

Hugging the ear of corn
of Time,
my head a tower of fire:
..../ A friend turned executioner? A neighbour said:
How slow is Hulago? Who is knocking ?
A ransom collector?
Give him the dues..
Shapes of women and men...walking images/
We gestured
and exchanged whispers,
our footsteps a string of murder/
Does your murder beget your God
or your God beget your murder?
- The riddle has confused him,
so he bent,
an arch of terror over his drooping days.

- I have lost a brother, my father has gone insane,
and my children have died.
Whose help do I invoke? Do I hug the door?
Complain to a carpet?
- He is dazed ; bring the urn and grant him recovery
with the snuff of the Ayatullahs.

Corpses which the murderer reads as anecdotes,
heaps of bones.
Is this mass a child's head, or a piece of charcoal?
Is what I see a body or a skeleton of clay?
I bow down, patch up two eyes, and stitch up a flank.
Guessing may assist me
and the light of memory may guide me.
But in vain I read the tenuous thread,
in vain I assemble a head, two legs, two arms,
to discover the identity of the victim.

-To whom does the ant offer its lesson?
and why the amazement?
is the fusion of this tragic spark with the eye;
and a trance it is
to see your house raised to God in fragments.
The owl of a clairvoyant shrieks on top of a minaret,
weaving its voice as a rainbow,
and crying, throttled, to the point of joy.

Hugging the ear of corn
of Time,
my head a tower of fire.
..../ The fool reveals his secrets:
This rebellious time is a jeweller's shop,
and a mire of prophets.

The fool reveals his secrets:
The truth will be death;
death the bread of poets
and that which is called, or has become, the homeland
is nothing but a time floating on the surface of Time.

The fool reveals his secrets:
Where is your key, O, splendour of the flood?
Please submerge me,
and take the last of my shores, take me.
I'm enthralled by fathomless seas ablaze,
enthralled by a burning straw,
by roads which startle all roads.

Hugging the ear of corn
of Time,
my head a tower of fire.
My soul has forgotten the things of its passion,
forgotten its legacy, preserved in the house of images.
It no longer remembers what the rain pronounces,
what the ink of trees inscribes;
no longer paints anything
but a sea gull flung by the waves onto the ropes of a ship;
it no longer hears anything
but iron screaming: Here is the city's breast,
a moon is ruptured, tied to the umbilical cord
of a ghoul of sparks;
it no longer knows that God and the poet
are two children
slumbering on the cheek of a stone.
My soul has forgotten the things of its passion.
Therefore, the shadow -the looming tomorrow- terrorizes me;
therefore doubts encompass me,
and the dream resists me.
Chained, I run from one fire to another.
I have plunged under the sweat flowing out of my body,
shared with the walls
the night insomnia/(the steps of night are beasts...)
And many a time I have said to poetry,
lying heavy at the bottom of my memory:
What is the saw that presses on my neck,
dictating the Verse of silence ?
To whom do I narrate my ashes
when I don't know how to tear the pulse and flick it over a table,
when I refuse to make my sorrow a drum for the sky.
Then, let me confess:
My life has been no more
than a mill of the wind and a house of phantoms.

Hugging the ear of corn
of Time,
my head a tower of flames:
The trees of love in Qassabin have brothered
the trees of death in Beirut.
And here is the forest of basil consoling
the forest of exile .
As Qassabin enters the map of grass,
and distils the entrails of the plains,
Beirut enters the map of death/
graves like orchards - the dismembered limbs
are fields.
What is it that spills Qassabin in Saida or in Sur,
when it is Beirut that is spilling?
What is it that in its distance draws so close?
What is it that mixes in my map
all these bloods?

....Summer has withered; autumn has not arrived;
spring is blackened in the memory of the earth/
winter is as death paints it: bleeding or in the throes of death .
A time emerges out of the flask of predestination
and the palm of fate;
a time of wandering which improvises Time
and ruminates the air.
How, and from where do you hope to know
this faceless murderer /who wears all faces...

Hugging the ear of corn
of Time,
my head a tower of fire:
Exhausted, I turn now and gaze into the distance-
What are these rags?
Histories? Countries? Banners on the cliff of dusk?

Here, in the instant I read whole generations,
and in the corpse I read a thousand corpses.
Here, the fathomless waves of absurdity submerge me,
my body breaks loose out of my control,
my face is no longer in its mirrors
and my blood shies away from its arteries...
Is it because I don't see the light which transports my dreams to it?
Is it because I am a distant extreme
of the universe
which all others bless while against it I blaspheme ?
What is it that uproots my depths and proceeds
through jungles of desire, countries- oceans of tears
and dynasties of symbols,
through races and nations- centuries and peoples?
What is it that separates my self from my self?
What is it that destroys me, negates me?
Am I a crossroad?
Is my path no longer my path
at the moment of revelation?
Am I more than one person, my history my cliff of falling,
and my rendezvous my fire?
What is it that rises in the cackle
rising out of my suffocating limbs?
Am I more than one person, each asking the other:
Who are you? And from where ?
Are my limbs jungles of conflicts a blood which is a wind and a body which is a leaf?

Is it madness? Who am I in this darkness?
Teach me and guide me, O, madness.
Who am I, my friends, the clairvoyant and oppressed?
I wish I could break out of my skin.
not knowing who I was or who I will be.
I am searching for a name and something to name,
while nothing can be named.
A blind time, and a blinded history.
A time of mud, and a history of wreckage.
And the one who owns is owned /
So, bless you, bless you,
O, darkness.

Hugging the ear of corn
of Time,
my head a tower of fire:
My Semitic grandfather is gripped by what blind fate begets.
A parrot, or a prophet poured into a mummy?
O, grandfather, whose path I now desert,
alright; you are the one who dwells in the water germ
and the folds of the heavens;
and it is wise of you to walk, as you do, proudly backwards;
you are the secret and the kingdom stuffed
with prophecies-
and I am the one incapable of comprehending you.
I am the one who strayed, and you are the miracle.
O, grandfather, whom I now reject,
and in whose creative name I had loved Creation,
as of now, you will not recognize me;
nothing will relate me to you
except those ruins sedimenting in the depth of my soul
lamenting me, and making me lament you.

Hugging the ear of corn
of Time,
my head a tower of fire:
The end of the age that rained sijjil**
now meets the beginning
of the age that rains oil.
And the god of palms grovels
at the feet of a metallic god .
And between the two gods I am
the spilt blood and retreating caravan,
groping for my dying fire
and trying to cope with my death,
which rages rampantly across its desert.
And I say:
The universe is nothing but what my dreams weave.
.../The threads dissolve,
and I see myself in the void of an abyss,
plummeting into the night of descent.
I see things as wheels of smoke
and see the world as a hunter's game:
The table has been laid, bodies are vegetables, the bowls are heads;
God sits at the table of the hunt:
a deer
which had been a baker,
a lizard
which had been a soldier/
Is it a god devouring the hunt,
or is the hunt devouring the god?

Roads that lie, shores that betray;
how can madness but strike you now?

Thus I desert the eater and the eaten
and seek repose in every space of wandering.
My consolation is that I delve deep into my dream,-
straying afar, and rippling,
singing the lust of rejection,
" The orbit of Venus is an anklet for my days,
and Capricorn a bracelet."
And I say: "Flowers in their crowns
are balconies..."
My consolation is that I rebel beyond all bounds,
and alert the verbs of rebellion.

Saddle these rampant winds.
History is slain, and slaughtering is only the prelude.
Leave the slaughterer, the slaughtering and the slaughtered
as witnesses,
and cover me with the remains of history, engrave me
as a ruin amongst the ruins.

Thus, I distil wisdom from its purest source,
shouting, welcome to my ruins, welcome to this eclipse.
Tomorrow death will extinguish me,
but extinguished I will not be.
Tomorrow I 'll exit from one light to another .
It is true that I am more frail than a thread,
but I am more sublime than a god.

Thus I begin,
hugging my land and the secrets of her passions.
Her lover is the body of the sea,
whose arms are the sun .
A body - storehouse of thunder
and anchor of tenderness.
A body - a promise, and I am the one absent in it.
I am the one rising out of this wager.
A body /
Cover the face of the lilies with the light of infatuated rain.

And let it be...
I hug the age to come and walk,
swaggering, as a ship's captain walks,
designing my homeland.
climb its highest peaks,
descend its lowest gorges,
you will find no fear or shackles.
As though the birds were boughs,
the Earth a child, myths were women.
A dream?
I grant to those who come after me
the bliss of inaugurating this space.

My skin isn't a hut of thoughts,
nor is my passion a woodcutter of memories.
My ancestry is that of rejection,
my weddings are the impregnation
between two poles.
And this age is my age:
The dead god, the blind machine.
And my age
is that I inhabit the pool of desires,
that my dismembered limbs are my flowers,
that I am
the alif of water and the ya of fire,*
and that I am
the madman of life.

Revealing to Time the secrets of his passions,
thus he confesses:
He is the one who goes astray,
he is the one who leads astray,
he is the dissenting, the outsider and the differing.



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