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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


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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