Todros Abulafia: The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain
Poems from The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492, (Princeton University Press).
Translated from the Arabic by Peter Cole
Peter Cole is the recipient of a 2004 PEN Translation Fund Award for The Dream of the Poem: The Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain (Princeton University Press).
I’ve Labored in Love
I’ve labored in love and brought nothing forth,
and I’m trapped in the trap of that fawn
of an Arab girl.
so craves a kiss from her mouth,
that I long to turn myself into a woman:
for women she’ll kiss—
but I’m lost as long as I’m male.
She Said She Wanted
She said she wanted to run when she saw
the gray scattered with white in my hair:
“Dawn’s already come up on your head
and I’m the moon—you’ll drive me away.”
“It isn’t true,” I said, “you’re the sun—
and can’t, by nature, hide by day.”
“You’ve lost your power to run after love,”
she replied. “What good would it do to stay?”
“Nothing’s changed,” I told her, “except
for the gray. I’ve got the heart of a lion
to do your will.” And she offered: “OK,
you’re a lion. . . . Then I’m a gazelle.
Would I lie down in the lion’s den,
bright gazelle that I am?”
The Day You Left
The day you left was bitter and dark,
you finest thing, you—and when I think of it,
it feels like there’s nothing left of my skin.
Your feet, by far, were more beautiful,
the day they mounted
and wrapped my neck in a ring . . .
Strong Poet, Weak Poet
Your song, friend, is born of a woman,
and the heart of a girl is what it has.
My poems take it daily to bed,
and drive their standards up its ass.
The Sea Casts Up Mire and Mud
The sea casts up mire and mud,
but sinks its pearls to the ocean’s floor,
and Time’s way is to raise the vile—
demeaning the precious, exalting the boor.
Good and evil it turns on their heads,
while fools think their state will endure,
but the wise toy with Time in their way,
finding in maybe and if some pleasure.
In the end, there’s a balance in heaven whose pans
the pure will lower, as the empty ascend.