Schizophrenia, by Nizar Qabbani

Translated by Reemah Rose al-Urfali


Between us is a rough love affair

I wouldn’t think of resisting

or protesting.

For true love is always a difficult love,

and is not received

on a chariot drawn by angels.

Nor do we find it hidden

like the moon

shining under our bed sheets…

Neither like a blue beauty spot

hidden below the left hip.



Between us is a language still in the throes of becoming,

And words still illiterate — nothing but words.

And breasts still in search

of papers upon which to drip

their honey…

and gold, and Indian spices…

Between us are priests and fortune tellers

and coffee cups containing a future impossible to decipher…

Signs of an approaching love

resembling those of Resurrection day,

Prophecies of an impending flood

and treasures that will glow ablaze,

Mystic animals will pollinate

and the kids will go to the school of violets each day.



Between us is an ashy gray tone tending toward rain,

under the rain,

and before the rain,

and after …

I desire you like a rabbit breathing

in wild greens.

Between us is a sentiment I have not yet written,

a part of the prophecy I have yet to reveal,

A state of rapture that turns me spinning,

a master dervish.

Between us are questions I do not want answered,

and beautiful contradictions whose solutions

would do love no good.

Childish quarrels,

that if settled,

would bring nothing to poetry.

Those little habits,

that climb up the bookshelves, the wallpaper,

and sink to the bottom of coffee cups.



Between us is a secret scandal,

tremors of unknown time,

A passionate love crime

to be executed at any moment.

Between us are half-lit streets,

Half-drawn curtains,

and night trains whose horns I hear,

but whose forms do not appear…

I sit beneath pineapple trees

and I rave in my sleep.



Between us are countries of thirst,

twisted emotionally, sexually,

and they reject your femininity

as they reject my poems.

Between us are tyrants, informants, centers of power:

Those determined against love,

against the revolution and writing.

Between us,

Men who float on the surface of poetry like pieces of cork,

And women,

Women who’d sell their gold bands,

and chop off their hands

for poetry.



Between us,

a group of impenetrable investors

and a brotherhood of patriarchs

who still do not recognize your eyes’ truth.

And scholars,

and diligent workers,

and interpreters,

who together decided to shed my blood,

and ban my poems from the school curriculum

so that the girls of the tribe

would not embellish their eyes with them.



شيزوفرينيا لنزار قباني




بيني وبينكِ علاقةُ حبّ صعبهْ

لا أفكرُ في مقاومتها

أو الاحتجاجِ عليها

فالحبُّ الكبير هو دائماً حبٌّ صعب

وليس صحيحاً أنه يأتينا على عربةٍ تجرها الملائكهْ

وليس صحيحاً

أننا نجدهُ مختبئاً كالقمر تحت شراشفنا

أو كشامةٍ زرقاءْ

تحت خاصرتنا اليسرى


بيني وبينك لغةٌ لا تزالُ في طور التشكيلْ

وكلامٌ لم يتعلمْ بعدُ  كلّ الكلامْ

ودفاترُ لا تزالُ تنتظرُ نهداً ينقطُ فوقها عسلاً

وذهباً  وبهاراً هندياً

بيني وبينك , كهنةٌ  وعرافونَ  وفناجينُ قهوةٍ لم تفتحْ

وعلاماتُ حبّ قادمٍ

تشبهُ علاماتِ يوم القيامهْ

ونبوءاتٌ عن أنهارٍ ستفيضْ

وكنوزٍ ستتوهجْ

وحويناتٍ شعريةٍ ستتلقحْ.

وأطفالٍ سيذهبونَ كلّ صباحٍ إلى مدرسة البنفسجْ


بيني وبينك طقسٌ رماديّ يميلُ إلى المطرْ

وأنا أشتهيكِ تحت المطرْ

وقبلَ المطرْ

وبعدَ المطر

وأستنشقكِ كما يستنشق الأرنبُ

أعشابَ البراري

بيني وبينكِ حالة ٌ من الشعر لم أكتبها بعدْ

وحالةٌ من النبوءة لم أبشّر بها الناسَ بعدْ

وحالةٌ من الانخطافِ

تجعلني سيـّدَ الدراويشْ

بيني وبينكِ أسئلة ٌ لا أريدها أن تجابْ

وتناقضاتٌ جميلةٌ ليس من مصلحة الحبّ أن تنته

وخصوماتٌ طفولية

ليس من مصلحة الشعر أن تـُحسمْ

وعاداتٌ صغيره

تتسلقُ على رفوف الكتبْ  وورق ِ الجدرانْ

وتترسبُ مع البنّ في فناجين القهوهْ


بيني وبينكِ فضيحة ٌ غيرُ معلنهْ

وزلازلُ مجهولة ُ التوقيتْ

وجريمةُ عشقٍ قابلةٌ للتنفيذ في أية لحظهْ

بيني وبينكِ شوارعُ نصفَ مضيئهْ

وستائر نصفَ مغلقهْ

وقطاراتٌ ليلة ٌ أسمعُ صفيرها  ولا أراها

وأشجارُ أناناس ٍ  أجلسُ تحتها

وأهذي في نومي


بيني وبينك بلادٌ من العطشْ

ومنحرفونَ شعرياً  وجنسياً يرفضونَ أنوثتكِ

كما يرفضونَ قصائدي

بيني وبينكِ طغاة ٌ  ومخبرونَ  ومراكزُ قوىً

وشركاتٌ مساهمة ٌ لمكافحة الحبّ , والثورة , والكتابهْ

بيني وبينكِ

رجالٌ يطفون كقطع الفلين على سطح الشعر

ونساء ٌ  يبعنَ أساورهنّ

ويقطعنَ أيديهنّ من أجل الشعرْ


بيني وبينكِ

مجتمعٌ من الصيارفة لا يمكن اختراقهْ

ومجتمعُ من البطاركهْ

لا يعترفُ حتى الآنَ بشرعية عينيكِ




قرروا بإجماع الآراء سفكَ دمي

وشطبَ شعري من مناهج وزارة التربيهْ

حتى لا تتكحلَ به بنات القبيلهْ



I learned today that the American Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. does not contain Arabic versions of the Bible (thank goodness for scholarship!). This was a real disappointment to me, for the image of Christ and his martyrdom is a powerful one for Arab Christians and Muslims alike. On the other side of the world, in my ancestral homeland Iraq, a statue of the virgin Mary was removed from a public square in Basra, as it was considered a liability for causing tension between people.

I wrote this poem earlier this summer, I hope it channels some of the love, pain, and devotion that Christ demonstrated and demanded for God and humanity. Here is my performance of the poem in two parts.

I love you so much

I love you so much

I feel nothing now but then i remember

the ache

it confuses me

i want it so much

the shame of your gaze

your love leaves a bruise

a stain blotted on my heart

all I want is you

to tame me with your calm touch

to press generous lips

on wet skin. i melt

in white linen

wicked gentleman

or gemini twin:

i won’t question

ill let you win.

dark emperor –

it’s your right

neptunian king

your knight

my god

i won’t say a word

i’ll bleed deep crimson

you’ll slake from my tears

and i won’t make a sound

i can’t hardly move…

i can’t feel the ground…

August 19, 2017 14:55 Harlem

New Poem, Bloodied Roses

For my first post, I would like to share the script of the poem I recently performed at a fantastic event at Columbia organized by the Muslim Writers Collective and the Muslim Protagonist writers groups. I performed an English language poem of my own creation titled, “Bloodied Roses.” I actually had edited a few lines prior to performing, but printed out an earlier version, and had to improvise on the spot. Well then, enjoy this final public version and my personal recitation. Also, I hope you had a happy new moon in Scorpio weekend! I certainly did.

the essence of love
is it devotion
something immaterial
i succumb to
bloodied roses
an ocean
of dark red oozes
through her
from her eyes
drips remorse
I’m numb, paralysed, like always
my body ice crystal
his lies grate at my insides
i feel nothing
master i’m devoted
i’m totally powerless now
play resist as if i could say no
was this your plan all along?
did i set my own trap?
you knew
i’d do anything
it’s my own fault
a mineral
a grain
into our universe
your heart
i climb align, perverse,
expand then reverse
into a tiny seedling
climbing my top lip
numb and attached to you
a vine suffocating
my neck rains
a snake and blood stains
you force
your skin
a horse
im bound
a prop
i lie
all day
your doll
your kitten
i’m bound
I’m bound
I’m bound
blood pours
i’m yours
a rope hung
snug and safe and sound
your teeth
i beg to
want you
kiss me
i’m your kitten

September 17, 2017