Please Don't Give Birth!

by Abdullah al Ryami

No one predicted
the day I was born:
the breast that fed me
was a jug of amnesia spilt by the invaders.
So I throw myself onto my shadow
to save it from the approaching train;
I bare my chest to spears
as if I were a shield carried by my ancestors;
I climb mountain peaks
the way I stroll along the beach,
as if these mountains were my seas,
their caves my seashells, my days.
Now every tree hides a wall
beneath its bark:
the minute I touch it,
I trespass into the property of strangers;
the minute I sit down on a rock,
it sprouts wings and flies off.
Where can I go?
How can I stumble away
when I hang here like the plait
that splits my lover’s back in two?
when God’s name lashes from the minarets
like whips whipping horseflesh?
No one predicted
the day of my birth.
And the river that bore me
has gone to ground
in a yawning expanse of endless land
that I cross without wings.
Like water, when I evaporate, I soar.
Like water, when I fall, I am pure.
Every time I touch this land,
its belly swells:
please don’t give birth
to another Omani,
an Omani who asks me
how long this century has lasted,
an Omani who invites me to his revels
to drink obedience in a cup —
while a rudderless balloon,
like an exclamation, floats across the sky.

The literal translation of this poem was made by Nariman Youssef, Anna Murison and Hafiz Kheir

The final translated version of the poem is by Sarah Maguire

Comments

  1. December 5th, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    omani says:

    ABDULLAH ALRIYAMI is a wonderful poet and writer ! thank you !

  2. September 4th, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    bradford says:

    This is an excellent translation. I can say from my familiarity with the Omani dialect that your translation of " كتروس اجدادي " is accurate as "like the shields of my ancestors". " تروس " is a dialect word for a small, conical metal shield, so I'm impressed you put that together from context!

    Secondly, I think the word " حائ " is another dialect word, usually translated (anthropologically) as "family house cluster" referring to a group of houses inhabited by close kin. So " تحت لحائها حائطا "is something like, "under [the hiding tree's] hayy' is a wall". 

    I think the poet is thinking about individual families as a tree, likely because of people's dependence on date trees for food and livelihood, and now he sees them as all locked up in their fortress-like hayy'-s and if anyone comes close to them, that person is "trespassing" on the hayy'.

    I want to express my thanks for translating this poem and encourage you to include more Omani poets!

  3. March 10th, 2009 at 4:54 am

    cathryn says:

    I'm a high school student who is not that interested in writing, but I needed 3 translated poems for my course work. When I read this poem, everything about the words on the page and the images they created was around me. This poet is incredibly amazing and can interest the most non-focused student. I'm glad I found this amazing poem and got to use it in my paper.

  4. June 20th, 2008 at 11:07 am

    snono says:

    i really wanted to describe how impressed i was by this piece, but i became aware that what i was fascinated with here isn't the poem, but the translation of it, for i've read loads of Arabic poetry
    and never have had this sweet feeling of being lost in the wood of letters and images.

    blessed be your pen, Sarah