A language of loss? I have some business in Arabic.
Love letters: a calligraphy pitiless in Arabic.
At an exhibit of miniatures, what Kashmiri hairs!
Each paisley inked into a golden tress in Arabic.
This much fuss about a language I don’t know? So one day
perfume from a dress may let you digress in Arabic.
A “Guide for the Perplexed” was written–believe me–
by Cordoba’s Jew–Maimonides–in Arabic.
Majnoon, by stopped caravans, rips his collars, cries “Laila!”
Pain translated is O! much more–not less–in Arabic.
Writes Shammas: Memory, no longer confused, now is a homeland–
his two languages a Hebrew caress in Arabic.
When Lorca died, they left the balconies open and saw:
On the seat his qasidas stitched seamless in Arabic.
Ah, bisexual Heaven: wide-eyed houris and immortal youths!
To your each desire they say Yes! O Yes! in Arabic.
For that excess of sibilance, the last Apocalypse,
so pressing those three forms of S in Arabic.
I too, O Amichai, saw everything, just like you did–
In Death. In Hebrew. And (please let me stress) in Arabic.
They ask me to tell them what Shahid means: Listen, listen:
It means “The Beloved” in Persian, “witness” in Arabic.
- Agha Shahid Ali
in These my words, Penguin