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Transcending ideological affiliations

A Window into Contemporary Omani Literature
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Zahir al Ghafri’s cosmopolitanism is such that one can hardly find any treatment of local themes in his entire oeuvre


Dr Khalid Mohammed al Balushi Born in 1956, Zahir al Ghafri is among the first poets championing verse free poetry in Oman. Thematically, there’s a marked transcendence of all manner of ideological affiliations in his poetry.


In fact, his cosmopolitanism is such that one can hardly find any treatment of local themes in his entire oeuvre. The following are translations of poems from his Whenever an Angel Appeared in the Fort published in Beirut in 2008.


The Stranger


Those sitting care not about the stranger.


I left my life there between the stones


Here I am


Like someone hunting dusk’s glow.


Must all these years have passed


To discover I was but a cry


Returning from death


From solitude lighter than a bird’s feather


Carrying regret’s smell and shadows? My straying glance


Knits a snare from my distant past


And every word I utter to myself


Raises my lofty destiny Like a bow broken on a ladder.


Light rain on the window


A black cloud-clothed face Just like that


The underground prince lands


Carrying an icon that swings


Like a copper necklace.


I say neither mind nor forest


Will be at peace


Like a sickle, truth passes by my face. From one city to another I plunge into rivers empty of friendship


Resort to fear


To charms


To the magic of bygone days


Knowing the arrow shall never cease.


My heart is a temple for angels


And a single step


Just a single step


Over garden’s grass is enough.


O God


Should I find but a white hand in the river


Whenever I peek through the window? There’s no father, no mother, no bed to say to me: “Sleep beneath the sun”.


My loss is but certain in what I own


I owned no home or gods’ foresight.


I’m probably a lost creature Under a star


Behind the light of a curtain.


Regret is the garment


Of those I love


My boughs are still white


Thus I raise my hand to write: Wilderness is Iram zaat Al’imad


And my towering fruits. Those sitting


Care not about the stranger. Beside the fountain


The pavements filled with butterflies tonight


An injured ibex with a bloody kneeI walk by, hear a sound Like a breeze descending on the hand: “There’s no life


Nor a mother suckling ancestors. Go there


To that forest. Your guide is a torch


In the tiger’s eye. Go there


Die alone


Behind a dome buried in the fog.


Karin Boye I’ll talk to you tonight I’ll talk to the angel in you


The angel sleeping next to the grave.


I’ll talk to you, Karin Boye


As you look with your fiery eyes


At the crystal tempest


While the gun fog covers the city’s night. Femininity is a flower on a suicide bed


A flower that raises the call of hands


To the heights. That voice is yours


It rings like an ibex chased in a wasteland


Coming from freedom’s banks


Your voice digs a grave above hills.


Leave God asleep on the bough


Take a cup of wine


From the fountain’s stone


For the third millennium.Miracles are few these days


But pain usually comes


Before everybody’s eyes


Here or there.


Your life was a forty year old cloud


Filled with butterflies


But remember


Either in the forest or on the river’s edge


Boys stay up on your fingertips’ light


Like buds opening up in the air.


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