The House of my Mother and Father
Syria : Modernity and History
(Ben Heine © Cartoons)

Damascus, What Are You Doing
to Me?

By Nizar Qabbani (*)

My voice rings out, this time, from Damascus
It rings out from the house of my mother and father
In Sham. The geography of my body changes.
The cells of my blood become green.
My alphabet is green.
In Sham. A new mouth emerges for my mouth
A new voice emerges for my voice
And my fingers
Become a tribe

I return to Damascus
Riding on the backs of clouds
Riding the two most beautiful horses in the world
The horse of passion.
The horse of poetry.
I return after sixty years
To search for my umbilical cord,
For the Damascene barber who circumcised me,
For the midwife who tossed me in the basin under the bed
And received a gold lira from my father,
She left our house
On that day in March of 1923
Her hands stained with the blood of the poem…

I return to the womb in which I was formed . . .
To the first book I read in it . . .
To the first woman who taught me
The geography of love . . .
And the geography of women . . .

I return
After my limbs have been strewn across all the continents
And my cough has been scattered in all the hotels
After my mother’s sheets scented with laurel soap
I have found no other bed to sleep on . . .
And after the “bride” of oil and thyme
That she would roll up for me
No longer does any other "bride" in the world please me
And after the quince jam she would make with her own hands
I am no longer enthusiastic about breakfast in the morning
And after the blackberry drink that she would make
No other wine intoxicates me . . .

I enter the courtyard of the Umayyad Mosque
And greet everyone in it
Corner to . . . corner
Tile to . . . tile
Dove to . . . dove
I wander in the gardens of Kufi script
And pluck beautiful flowers of God’s words
And hear with my eye the voice of the mosaics
And the music of agate prayer beads
A state of revelation and rapture overtakes me,
So I climb the steps of the first minaret that encounters me
“Come to the jasmine”
“Come to the jasmine”

--> Read the end of the poem

(*)Qabbani was revered by generations of Arabs for his sensual and romantic verse. His work was featured not only in his two dozen volumes of poetry and in regular contributions to the Arabic-language newspaper Al Hayat, but in lyrics sung by Lebanese and Syrian vocalists who helped popularize his work.

--> Source :