Literal Translation by Suneela Mubayi
Inspired by the Book of Zuleikha
A poem by Nujoom al-Ghanem
Literal translation by Suneela Mubayi
And should Venus steal from us those meant for us; and Jupiter meddle with our fortunes
Then will not we let them strive to separate our paths
We will leave for the fates the rose of hopes
For perhaps the custodians of the shrine will betray the traditions for our sake while
We ascend to god, who will grant us a door and a key of rescue
and forgives us because we want to descend from his heaven
Perhaps it is alright if we should fall once.
You set out following the tracks of the books of Helios
You washed the roads with salt so that nothing of our smell
Remained trapped in the stones
I cried for you until my heart burned up with the wound of absence
And despite the power of sorrow I hid the rhymes of Hafiz for your return
And the shadow of the crimson stars
I left the windows wide open under the September sky
And when you did not come I learned to call out to the wind
I fell in love with love while waiting
and the burning bite of snow on my cheeks would heal my heart.
The full moon that my desire made sick has become a home I take refuge in
and the deserts the land for my dreams
As for the straits leading to [different] lands, they were the bridge that I will cross reach your heart
We were going to unbutton the shirts of evenings and treat each other with kisses
But you took the anthems by their hands and stayed there in
the “longer” oceans testing out the impact of their weight and flipping through the waves
You journeyed within the journey
and it became our love’s fate to part
Come here for night when the moon becomes full
In its shadow we will lay down on our island and lean on the south winds
Our fates will become dizzy from the severity of our passion and grant us an hour or two
While they are not paying heed we can taste kiss upon kiss
And so, like a kiss between clouds
We catch fire the nearer our souls get and the rain pours down onto the world
like kiss upon kiss
contented with a tale about us in their book? And we be contented with kisses upon kisses?
Which wind do we bribe? Is it the east wind or the west wind that will choose us?
Or perhaps the north wind or a chemistry that god designs for us
For us to fall first into the night, like star after star
and for us to be their ashes and their innermost secret
For falling in love is a likely death and how beautiful it would be for it to be in our destiny
 The wife of Potiphar in the Biblical tale who attempts to seduce the prophet Joseph and then accuses him of rape when he resists her, she is not named in the Biblical tale but named in the Quranic version of the tale in Surat Yusuf. It inspired poems in Persian and Urdu, most notably “Yusuf and Zulaikha” by Persian poet Jami.
 The word used is sadana pl. of sādin the word in Arabic to refer to priests of pagan temples, including those of the Kaaba (holy shrine housing idols) in Mecca before Islam.
 The roman god of the sun?
 There is a separate word for “full moon” in Arabic (badr) apart from the generic word for moon (qamar)
 The word used here is mafāza, as opposed to the generic word for desert (ṣaḥrāʾ), perhaps because the root for the word is from fawz which means victory or overcoming, i.e. a place that represents the triumph of man’s will to survive
 The poet uses the term al-buldān (pl of bilād – country, land, etc) to mean the lands or the world beyond the desert
 The word baḥr pl buḥūr means both sea and poetic meter, and one of the prominently used ones in classical Arabic poetry is the called al-ṭawīl [“the long”]. The other word used for meter is wazn pl. awzan which also means weight hence the puns in the phrase.
 The poet uses the same word here twice, raḥīl for setting out on a journey
 The poet specifies the gender by using the female plural jinniyyāt, in reference to the supernatural creatures in Arabo-Islamic tradition who are formless entities and who, in Islamic tradition, are made from fire, as opposed to man, who is created from the earth.
 The word used here is wazn, which also means weight, both literally and figuratively
 The Arabic word for kiss/es (qubla pl. qubal) repeated throughout the poem is from the same root as qibla, the direction that Muslims must face toward while praying, ie toward mecca.
 The references to the various winds in the poem is evocative to the arab reader of tropes in classical arabic poetry where often the north or south winds efface the traces of the campsite where the poet’s beloved once resided.
 The literal expression used is sirr asrārihā ie their secret of secrets, perhaps to mean at the heart of their core
 Throughout the poem, the poet varies between two words for love – ḥubb and ‘ishq – the former is more the stock word for love in general, not just the romantic kind, while the latter, though also commonly used has a stronger sense of passion or infatuation in it, although it can also be used colloquially in non-romantic contexts to describe adoration of something.