I Remember I Was a Point, I Was a Circle by Houda Al-Namani

I remember
I was
a point, I was a circle,
I walked
The swords are porous green. I fell, to the edge of a whitened
eyelash, I laughed, to the edge of death I laughed.
I remember I was a glass that breaks the water, stretched out across
a cloud,
I remember I was a butterfly,
despair began to spread like darkness, bullets began
to make shadows, pointed shadows.

He is your blue-colored shirt, my cup and fork, my
balcony, the din of silence in the void, my closed eyelids,
the bird that shall bear me to the grave, he is the grave.

How often they have wrangled with mountains on my lips. Hands
that burn are extinguished in wine, rivers that run dry are pinned
to the walls, parched earth tries to imprison
your voice, your voice.

I have not been dreaming that I would have courage one
day and kill myself. A feather, fields, handkerchiefs.
I shall kill myself! Like a sun throwing itself into a sea,
Have you the courage to dance on a mirror? Have you more
strength than the brilliance of a bee upon its knees, than
the kiss of pearls shoulder to shoulder? Have you the
courage for blood?

Do you spell out tears as I set forth a tree?
From the ledge of each well, pots of hyacinth fly
in all directions. As though temples exploding, they
cross the marble to the final star, like the grasses that
glitter in a pebble. I watch her veiling herself,
I strangle her asleep at my cheek, in vain I pluck her
at the shoot.

Pots of hyacinth.
On my clothes I write God, I write heaven.
This is me. And this is you.
I open my eyes. I open my hands. I see my fingers
Cut off.
Cut off.

The sun’s valleys have no color. Children’s nails
Have no color.
Bracelets of fire have no color.
Screaming has no color.
Beirut…you are screaming.
Like one who lives on a seesaw, I live in the
pupil of your eye.
Come morning you destroy me like an arrow, come evening
I yield to you, without a struggle I turn to dust. I
say he is a mountain that bears a city, I say he is
a horse that gallops in the sun.

Like one who lives in deceit, I stone myself
and call for help

Is there a terror greater than veiled fear, than
a deserted evening, than feet that tread on heaven,
than waves sketched like rainfall, than signs of thunder,
than a cage without a bird, a bird without wings, wings
without love, without love?

From your two hands I gather tenderness at night,
from your two hands I grant a smile to each star, from
your two hands I bury my head on your breast, from your
two hands I search for my prayer.

I draw halos around you, as if you are the foe, as
if you are the Messiah. If you were alone, I tell you, I would
prostrate myself to you. If just ten, I would hide you
in my lungs. Since you are a thousand, I shall give you
to drink from my blood. Your wound grows and grows.
it slits my throat from vein to vein. I put sand in your
wound. I put your wound in a giant, and around myself I
light the fire.

Who are you, that I should love you in the space I love you, in
the wound?
The stones are whispering:
There is no myth save in a wrestling goddess, a moon fragmenting. The
statues are countless, beyond all computation. The poison is a single
dose placed in a cup.
I pluck suns from between your eyes, I pluck thorns. I kindle the
twigs of the dream alight, melt the years and the bloodgroups, the
necessities of war and necessities of peace. I cordon off a blue volcano
to right and left, watching me with its white fangs.

Twilight, is it some calamity that brings you, or a flood?

The desert is turning black, the desert is turning green.

Orbits, be scattered beyond time, beyond weapons, beyond vipers, Be
in harmony with the strength of gods, with mercy like the gods, with
optimism like the gods. Upon the trackless sand each teardrop has a
garden, the birds a small handful of honey.

We die, oh, how many we die!

In death I find nothing but you,

In the breeze too, and the scythe and the drizzle, the barricades and
handguns and men in hoods, in live broadcasts and telephones cut dead,
In bulletins of news, the safe roads and the unsafe, interrogations,
delays, prayerbooks and beads, chess pieces, tranquilizers, pine and
saffron, weddings, births and spare time, and arguments, arguments,

I find none but you.
Here am I bending down to drink and I lose my memory.

I have not let my face leap like a bat, I have not kicked my foot
against the place of my exile, I did not move like phantoms over the
rooftops, I did not try child hunting, I did not steal the sea’s wings,
I did not break glass over a breast, I did not eat my flesh that burns,
I have not withdrawn into despair, I did not go mad in gathering honey,
I did not go mad, I did not go mad, I did not go mad.

No need for my corpse.

No need for the flanks of suffering, for my armor.

No need for my charred body. A ship carries us to the end of the world.
Rivers push us seaward. A destiny in which I dress. Nets by which I am
woven. Statues I destroy. A debt I pay. Flocks of birds.

A disaster. An earthquake. Travel. Return.

Return. Return. Return.

O Jerusalem! From thou…we shall ascend!
Forgive me O Lord,

Plains accepting no death, a shore gathering pearls, a white
horse enfolding me and taking wing, a bird that immolates me as I am
warmed by its eyes, eyes in which I pray and weep, my ribs that are
translucent, trees of emerald, the rose of compassion above unity,
the dissension of daybreak’s crown, the willfulness of nightly grandeur,
the sanctity of pain, roses raining down,

him, him, him.

I grasp the wave and I tumble

A divine vigilance in my eyes?

I leave at your door the burnt moments of time, the sunset, the harvest
of error, and endless slipping, the grasp of truth, ingots of gold, faces
of those who have died, faces of those who will die, footsteps of the
prophets, shadows of the priests, the thinness of words, the misfortune
of the world, the secrets of the fields,

my love for you, your hatred for me,
and the white lilies
and the white lilies.

I grasp the wave and I tumble…
I Remember I was a point, I was a circle.

She is a voice…any voice.
He is a land…not every land.

Translated from the Arabic by Tim Mitchell