Saturday, August 20, 2022 | Muharram 21, 1444 H
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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Motifs of absence, death and exile...

A window into contemporary Omani literature

Sama Essa has been particularly influential in both introducing and solidifying verse-free prose poetry in Oman


Essa al Tai, famously known for his pen name Sama Essa, is a pioneering contemporary Omani poet. Along with Saif al Rahbi (1956) and Zahir al Ghafri (1956), Al Tai has been particularly influential in both introducing and solidifying verse-free prose poetry in Oman. His diction is characterised by a preponderance of motifs such as death, absence and exile.


As these words suggest, there’s a prevalent atmosphere of alienation in his poetry from the predominant discourses. The following are translations of poems from his elegiac collection: A Love Song for Laila Fakhru (Beirut 2012):


(1) Scattered around you


Are small corpses.


You weep


But the earth is earth:


Prophets it expels


Martyrs it stones.


(2) As if her blood


Had risen from the East,


Like a butterfly whose nectar death's fields suck.


(3) Even if the wind


Carried the silent whispers of the dead


To their first abodes,


Even if solitude left us standing before a tree


On whose boughs the clothes of the dead


Hung


I still remember you


As I remember my mother...


(4) Like a child that


Touches the river and cries:


My mother who's gone away


Will you be back again?


(5) Who will open the door


For my mother when she returns?


The angels, my love.


But she's travelled


Left us


She'll never return.


(6) Will I knock your tomb's door and cry?


Who will be there to hear East's call


After all its lovers turn to dust?


(7) Martyr


The passersby gathered


The ashes of his body


And left.


From the love that glowed in his eyes


There remained a warm blink


Like the drowsiness of a babe.


(8) The small, white love tree


Bent its boughs


Like an old dry river


Turns into a wasteland


After its lovers travelled to death.


(9) Turn to me


As you start your cry


Your bitter cry.


Say to me: I love you,


For you will travel later


To a warm, tender, deep death.


Every path leads to love


Every path leads to death.


(10) How sweet you are!


Like a stream descending


From some remote mountain.


But ...


Wait a little while,


Let me finish my song


And follow you...


(11) Like a tree


Dropping its fruits at last


After they ripen, you leave.


Sweet as you are


The river takes you


From its source to its mouth.


(12) We grew old


We died


Before your death


Your sweet death.


(13) Mothers of absence lull us to sleep


With songs of exodus


In a mountain the traveler can’t leave


Till after love shuts it eyes


And becomes but ruins.


(14) But


Who can stop you travelling to death?


The earth has already drawn you


To its roots


Embraced you


Like a mother hugging her babes


Before the rendezvous


With eternity's night


The deep night.


(15) A tranquil, serene beauty


Passed by our village at dawn,


It woke us up


It woke up our dead


And then left...


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