Five Poem of Ḥafṣa bint al-Ḥājj ar-Rakūniyya in Translation

Translated from the Arabic by Will Pewitt


            Speaking to Lightning

Speak to lightning, a memento of my beloved
            —plunging into still dark—
if he remembers how he thundered me:
             gave my heart a beating,
                        a raining
                                    of blows.
            
            

                    As We Walked

As we walked together
            your garden gave no full-faced grin,
but covered its florid blooms
            returning our smiles with green envy.
 
And as we talked together
            your river gave no bubbly laugh,
but belched and yelled
            to drown out our entrancement.
 
The world doesn’t sweeten 
            just because we turn one another to honey.
Each day even the sunny dawn
            breaks to blot out those amorous stars.

            
            

         Dressed in Mourning

Dressed in mourning,
            worn deeper than clothes,
it’s that inner fabric
            inciting them to threats.
 
God, give Your blessings
            to those trapped within tears,
unseen as the smiles of the slain,
            stolen as water from a well.
 
Let clouds garment this day,
            a pale offering.
God’s embrace: a recompense
            for a hand I couldn’t lend.
            
                        
            

            When I Visit

When I visit you I present
            myself—
            an offering for your 
            consumption,
like a succulent gazelle.
 
But perhaps you’re among the dead
            hungerless—
            that must be what they 
            meant
when they said you were too busy to see me.
            
            
            

          I’ve Grown into a Child

I’ve grown into a child
            jealous of my own eyes.
Mad that they get to host you,
            grinning for when I’ll steal you.
 
Like parents my eyes demand caution,
            holding you beyond reach.
They make me think of nothing
            but later—someday—the Day of Release.


About the Author 
Ḥafṣa bint al-Ḥājj ar-Rakūniyya was a Grenadian noblewoman known for her legendary love affair with a vizier that ended tragically when a jealous ruler killed him. She later became a royal tutor in Marrakech for daughters of the Almohad dynasty. Only about sixty lines of her poetry have survived to the present.

About the Translator  
Will Pewitt has published widely in a variety of genres, from fiction and nonfiction to poetry and philosophy. He currently teaches global literature and writing at the University of North Florida. More of his work can be found at WPewitt.com.

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