Three Poems of Love and Desire by Nouri Al-Jarrah

15 March, 2022


Nouri al-Jarrah 


Salah Abdoh, translating with Maryam Haidari, presents three poems by one of his favorite living poets in the Arabic language, Nouri al-Jarrah, long exiled from the Assads’ Syria. Here are three poems of love and desire, composed in Beirut during the darkest days of the civil war, and war within war.


I Saw You

Yesterday I saw you, yesterday
you and I were in town;
me, watching you pass,
you, not watching;
a hundred sentinels posted at the doors –
weapons in hand,
broad shouldered –
shattered to pieces
to become shadows,
sentinels of your sleep. 


In life, in Death

In life and in death
I love you.
You are the reign of wakefulness,
the heart’s insurrection,
the chaos of an undying day;
you are objects in moments of transformation. 

In life and in death,
in recklessness, 
and through those intervals of darkness
in the balcony of oblivion, 
I love you. 

On streets clogged with soldiers and stones, 
and in the fork on the road to bewilderment

I love you. 

The moon enters a room 
I cannot love you with one life

So with the first and last spirit assigned to me
I shred the flowers of the soul and arrive at eternity.

In life and in death,
in the wilderness of spite,
and days of doubt
when men harvest a lethal blossom 
and exchange daggers and bullets and blows,

I love you. 

In life, in death
and in bitter vigilance. 


I Speak of a Woman


I speak of a woman
a woman who descends the staircase in a fury,
to kiss me and say:
“Don’t misunderstand me ….” 

A woman who exiles me from her lips,
then takes me to bed.

I speak of a woman who recalls in fury her feet
a woman who calls me a scoundrel
and in the end insists 
that I
am a man made of clay.

Her hair was the long poem
she sang in the room,
and in the balcony
she contemplated
God’s blood orange sunset.

Love –
grief’s apple.
She was a drawing on the wall
of my house,
a white cherry blossom tree
in my garden. 

                                    Beirut, Winter 1982-1983


Nouri al-Jarrah is a Syrian poet, prose writer and journalist. Born in 1956 in Damascus, he moved to Beirut in 1981, then to Cyprus and finally to London in 1986, where he has worked as a journalist for several Arab newspapers and magazines. Al-Jarrah considers himself in exile since the early \\\’80s. He is known as one of the most influential contemporary poets of the Arabic-speaking world and has founded several literary magazines. His poetry has been published in 16 collections, many of which have been awarded prizes in various parts of the Arab world, including The Boy (1982), Ode to a Voice (1990), Hamlet’s Gardens (2003), and Noah’s Despair (2014). His poems present his vision of poetry and life, to which he has lent a unique voice over the years. His verse leans on a variety of cultural sources, with a particular way of focusing on mythology, folktales, and legends while reflecting on metaphysical considerations and deep, existential questions—most recently, the Syrian uprising and the resulting refugee crisis. Jarrah’s literature has been translated into English, Persian, French, Spanish, Greek, Dutch, Polish, Turkish and Italian. 

BeirutdesireloveNouri Al-JarrahpoetrySyria

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *