From “An Evening in My Hand”

I’m Alluding to the Sun

I won't find you
        And will continue sketching the lamp outside. 


Because the tree
Visits me continually,
Because the lamps
Speak only in my presence,
And because I
Feed the stars my tongue,
All this interplay occurs
While you’re asleep,
And that’s why you think I’m

A Search

You all may notice
Me opening
The carton’s packs
Or searching through
The tree’s leaves
For one that’s falling
And see that once I look
At your faces
I look again,
Seeking a tender night
With splendid weather
That I spent alone!

A Choice

I love the night dearly;
Only it
Can free me
From my shadow,
And that’s why
I may sense freedom
When it’s near me,
If you all gang up on me
I read a book
About sex
And select a star
To light my bed!


“How can I leave
A moonlit night?
Shouldn’t I
Hug you
And let the breeze protect us?”
This is all I hear
Of the nighttime pests’ refrain
As I
Head to bed


Who said I
Don’t like sitting in the kitchen?
While calm is fresh
And the lamp hanging
Above the table
Renews its spirit for me,
I can
Chat with myself
And with the plate that holds
Only the words
I can’t remember!

An Attempt

I have trouble interpreting
My dreams
Unless I’m in front of the mirror
Or alone with the lingering void,
Because when the day
Begins to slip away,
Leaving its cloak over my shoulder,
I frequently
Resort to a tranquil book
To seek the scent of friends!


Who among you
Saw me yesterday
When I was overjoyed?
As my fingers stroked
My son’s lustrous hair
And wove with it tales
Of butterflies and foxes!

An Explanation

Nothing I’ve told you
Ever happened!
Because when I sleep alone
Dreams feel
And fill
All the room’s boughs,
And this is why
I smile
And the sky turns blue!

A Trip

To keep from dying
I shave
And dress
Beyond your expectations!
I choose a corner in the dwelling
And begin to reveal
My talents.
So for a time
I whistle
And then
I listen to the shrubs
Of my childhood.
This lovely trip
Only takes place
When I’m alone
At night!


In the apathetic bar
I rattle on inanely
Like a boulder;
I debate sordid topics.
I stick my words
To the table,
And this is what
My friends do too.
That’s why
The night suffers from drivel.


Have you forgotten love?
There was a time when I
Didn’t allow time
For listening to larks and warblers;
I broach the sea each day
But don’t smile
And haven’t planted a rosebush
In my garden.
I wonder
Whether women will understand
What I’m up to
If I look
At the sky tonight
To refresh the stars’ memory?


When the day crushes me,
I think of my friend
The night,
And these are my greatest attempts
At living,
–My poor cat–
I often let her
Fill the heavens with meows
As she sagely rubs against the walls
While I
Leap from one evasion
To the next!

Music Making

I’m not searching for my shadow
In this pile
Of signs,
But there is an evening
That doesn’t understand what it means for me to sit
On a new bough
Contemplating time’s dagger
And clasping a guitar
To unfasten my friends’ necklace.


Come with me,
Come let’s change the sky’s color.
We’ll plant our lips
On the body of the wind.
We’ll buy seeds
And listen to the rustling of our glances
At the twilight.
Don’t feel disconcerted.
No one is concerned with our hands
When they fly
In the area filled
With jittery hearts.
It doesn’t matter what happens in the film;
What’s important is for our hands to clasp
And for the clouds to thicken
Their clothes.


Why is the moon
More vigilant tonight
And soaring more gracefully?
Perhaps it acts like that
For all of you, too,
Not taking anything from its hand.
I’ll stay at home
To write about it,
Because this adolescent
Is even readier to repeat
Its feats from last night,
When it escorted me
To the tavern’s door;
But as I went inside
It left me to say adieu to the night all by myself,
While it tempted me
Through the glass!


I seize a dove from the air
And follow a faint cry
As the sky scatters clouds
In my path
While the full moon
Races through the void
And my secrets approach
Little by little
The seashore,
And there, where
My face reaches its zenith,
I release the dove, asking it
Whether I’ll be able
To use this confused night
To cleanse my fingers
With the sands of my memories!


There: the sky has fallen asleep,
Leaving behind
Only small lamps,
That distribute their grief
To curb the stars’ playful intrusions;
So why does the night weep,
Letting its tears
Till my heart?
A child may be
On his way to the hospital now
Or the boy who
Sold me a rose
May still be scavenging through the trash;
Perhaps tomorrow
I’ll seek out a silent tree
And sling into its knapsack
My other queries!


While the night plays its thoughts,
Allowing the stars to dance naked,
We sit–me and my portable radio–
On an old table
And as always
I gaze at the tedious towers.
When the scales drop
Their arms on our table,
The radio begins to stammer;
This poor, sick planet–
Bulldozers destroy its nesting birds,
Target its mountain wildflowers, and
Bombs shatter its ribcage.
Little stars would be only too happy
To bathe in its lakes
And serve as dolls for its children,
But they fear the gods of war
Who can
Pin stars
On their shoulders!


Ahmed ALajmi

Ahmed ALajmi was born in Bahrain on April 13, 1958. He is a member of the Bahrain Writers Association (Usrat al-Udaba' wa-l-Kuttab), which he headed from 1999-2001. He also served as the editor-in-chief of its journal Karaz (Cherry) from 2007 to 2009. He has published twelve books of poetry from 1987 to the present. His work also has been published in various cultural publications, and he has taken part in many poetry festivals in Bahrain and overseas.

ALajmi's book I Can See the Music (2007) contains translations from the Arabic in English, Spanish, Farsi, and French. English translations of some of his poems appear in Pearl, Dreams of Shell, edited by Hameed Al Qaed (Howling Dog Press, 2007). His collection of poems As If It Is Love (2009) was published as a set of postcards in a folder, in both Arabic and English.

William Hutchins

William Hutchins, who is based in North Carolina, was educated at Berea, Yale, and the University of Chicago. He was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant for literary translation in 2005-2006 for his translation of The Seven Veils of Seth by the Libyan Tuareg author Ibrahim al-Koni (Garnet Publishing). His translations have appeared on and in Banipal Magazine of Modern Arabic Literature. His recent and forthcoming translations of Arabic novels include Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street, and Cairo Modern by Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz (Anchor Books), Basrayatha by the Iraqi author Muhammad Khudayyir (Verso), The Last of the Angels (The Free Press) and Cell Block 5 (Arabia Books) by the Iraqi author Fadhil al-Azzawi, Return to Dar al-Basha by the Tunisian author Hassan Nasr (Syracuse), Yusuf's Picture by the Iraqi author Najem Wali (MacAdam/Cage), and Anubis (The American University in Cairo Press) and Puppet (Texas), also by Ibrahim al-Koni.

Masa fi Yadi. Copyright (c) Muassasah al-`Arabiyah lil-Dirasat wa-al-Nashr (Beirut, 2003). English translation copyright (c) William Hutchins, 2010.