From A Man from the Empty Quarter (Beirut 1994) By Saif Al Rahbi (1956- )

Some of the Sultanate’s treasured poems, originally in Arabic, translated by Khalid Mohammed al Balushi (

Life slyly slips from my hand
After I clung on it.
I stare at it
Turn from the heel of my evening
To my first cup
To chase her like a huntsman,
The start of a galaxy’s birth in my head.

I seek shelter
From the palm tree of the past,
Sneak into the dreams of those sleeping
On roofs dazzled by sun and breeze,
I inspect my memory’ citizens
Like a commander inspecting his troops
That ran away from slaughter.
The key to abyss is a cup of wine:
That’s the life we steal
From the wolf’s mouth.

Like prayers, stars have their own chapels
We saw them in their luminous mihraab,
The shooting stars sank in our eyes
Like large needles from travelling light
We didn’t fathom immortality.
An Iraqi
Bends to pick up a date
In the wind of exile
Remembering Iraq’s dates.

We’re not stupid,

We’re not doves of war,
We shall plow this injury
Till the last tear in the horizon.

Like a churn,
The sky verges on explosion,
Thunderbolts and hailstones
But it doesn’t brighten.

The past is before us like Polar islands,
Where the ice melts
In instalments.

We owe nobody,
But our bereaved feet owe distances.

A kind hand stretches with father-like love
Takes us to it
While calamities picnic on the pavement.

I saw the shooting stars cry
On my father’s farm,
The storm of clouds and the fainting of orbits.