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Friday 2 December 2011

Nizar Qabbani: Written on the wind


Aerial view of Turkey Vulture gliding over forested area, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Texas
: photo by Wing-Chi Poon, 12 April 2008

كتبت فوق الريح
اسم التي احبها
كتبت فوق الماء
لم ادر انّ الريح
لا تحسن الإصغاء
لم ادر انّ الماء
لا يحفظ الأسماء

Written on the wind
that name I love
written on the water
I didn't know the wind
is a poor listener
I didn't know the water
is terrible at names

Girl walking toward her mother, East Portal, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
: photo by Wing-Chi Poon, 12 May 2006

Black bird (Corvus corax) landing near a tent, Stovepipe Wells Campground, Death Valley National Park, California
: photo by Wing-Chi Poon, 22 December 2004

Pelicans escaping from submerging colony, Año Nuevo State Reserve, California
: photo by Wing-Chi Poon, 19 October 2007

Nizar Qabbani (1923-1998): Written on the wind (English: TC)


Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Beautiful poem ... a different type of interaction, between human and environment, than in "Myth of Man's Dominion."

Or is it?


TC said...

Yes, Don, I believe it is.

Would the word "antidote" be too strong?

A bit of air, a bit of uplift, a bit of glide across the timeless thermals...

Anonymous said...

Of the three poems you posted this morning, this one stands out the most for me. What I find striking about it is that nature, the wind & the water, in all its apparent inadequacy, or perhaps just mean-spiritedness, by bending our otherwise coercive individual wills, enables that "name I love" to be liberated, and perhaps in the process enables us to love. It is a reminder, perhaps, that naming is one of the worst things we can do to love.

TC said...


The blurry nature of naming, and the even blurrier and blearier project of trying to hang on to the names, once they've been slapped on to things, became more and more apparent to me in recent years, after the neurons had been re-ordered somewhat by "small" strokes. And there came moments when the thing was there in the mind, beckoning, as if from a departing ship. But the word had been left (and lost) somewhere in the gloom, on the shore.

To be truthful those losses had been happening for a while.

The dolorous process is staged in one of the dramatic narratives I did in the early '90s, imagining (or perhaps projecting) a John Keats, who, in his final voyage, can no longer hold on to the names.

Melancholy Watch: The Downs (September 1820)

Before embarking on that last voyage, in his protracted final illness, Keats had been asked by a friend if he had been writing any poems.

Out of the question in that state, Keats replied. The "primitive information, light & shade", which, he said, was so vital to the writing of poetry, could no longer be summoned.

He was losing all the names, the contrastives, the keys that had once opened all the doors.

But on the other hand... when the names have gone, and the verbal surfaces have been wiped away, perhaps then, at last, we may be able to begin to sense essences, grasp internal meanings.

There is love... and then there is language.

aditya said...


Beautiful Tom.

ACravan said...

The selection and ordering of these photographs, dramatic and sad as I find it, together with the poem, which I find bitterly funny, are incredibly, entirely true. I myself experience two odd memory lapse details. The first is that I have never been able to remember the names of people introduced to me by my mother. Since at one point we moved to the town where she lived, that presented, and continues to present, despite the fact that she's no longer here, problems. I have no idea why this occurred. Second, my memory for song lyrics has become very spotty. I mention these lacunae because most people think I have a phenomenal memory and I'm among friends. When I've mentioned it to other people, they just treat me like I'm weird. Curtis

TC said...

Thank you, Aditya and Curtis.

To speak truly, I think we are all a bit weird around here, but that commonalty probably also helps us to forgive each other's weirdness... Amor vincit omnia, as the poet once said (with a wink).