Seeds in Flight

by Khaled Abdallah

An ancient woman, who has lived all seasons,
wanders the earth gathering camomile.

Each flower in her apron is a star,
her apron is the sky. When she reaches the house,

she strews them to dry like shells on a beach -
to bring good luck, to whisper the future.

In the sun her tattoo glistens, a star glints
in her golden earring, the camomile dries.

Her hand, hennaed with god's names,
spun the wool of the flock, embroidered

the wedding clothes, gathers the dried flowers.
But next season, when the future arrived,

it silenced the whispers. She was buried with her ancestors.
And yet as if by chance, as if by magic, as if by a miracle

the camomile grows each season behind the house.
Many seeds have flown. These seeds remain.

The literal translation of this poem was made by Sara Vaghefian

The final translated version of the poem is by The Poetry Translation Workshop

Notes

Like most poems we've translated from Arabic, this was fiendishly difficult to unpick. Translating Arabic poetry is virtually impossible for someone unless they're a native speaker who is steeped in contemporary Arabic poetry, so we were very lucky that Worod Musawi was there to help us.

If you look at the original Arabic version, you'll see that the poem is centred with line breaks that seem to be based on shape more than meaning. The most radical departure we made from Khaled's original poem was to alter the line breaks and put the poem into couplets. This slows the poem down, allowing the images room to breathe.

Comments

  1. June 3rd, 2013 at 9:19 am

    Guneet Kaur says:

    beautiful poetry. The enthusiasm touched my heart, thanks to the poet and the translator. :)

  2. November 16th, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Ramzi says:

    Chamomile Chamomile Chamomile Chamomile Chamomile Chamomile Chamomile Chamomile

    بابونج بابونج بابونج بابونج بابونج بابونج بابونج بابونج

  3. November 12th, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Amandine Marcellin says:

    Those who survive are those who have flown...

  4. May 5th, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Sanna Saastamoinen-Barrois says:

    This is soooo beautiful , " it silenced the whispers. She was buried with her ancestors. And yet as if by chance, as if by magic, as if by miracle" its almoust as if there really was this calmness flotaing around every word!!! thank you!!