Nizar Qabbani: “I Want”

I Want

I want to write you words
that don’t resemble words.
I want to make a language for you alone
to fit the shape of your body
and the breadth of my love.

I want to leave this leafed-through dictionary.
I want to leave my mouth
(I’m sick of circling the round ring of my mouth!)
I want another mouth
that can change when it chooses
to a cherry tree
or a matchbox.
I want a new mouth, from which new words can come
like sea nymphs leaping from the ocean’s foam
like white chicks jumping from a sorcerer’s hat.

Take all the books I read in childhood.
Take all my grade-school notebooks.
Take the chalk and the pens and the blackboards.
Teach me a new word I can hear,
to hang like a ring on my lover’s ear.

I want other fingers
to write another way.
(I hate fingers that are neither too long nor too short,
as I hate trees that neither die nor grow.)
I want new fingers
tall as ship masts
long as the necks of giraffes,
fingers to stitch a poem-shirt for my love,
one she never wore before me.

I want to make you an alphabet
different from all alphabets,
one that has something of the rhythm of rain
one that has something of the dust of the moon
one that has something of the sadness of clouds
the ache of willow leaves
crushed beneath the wheels of September.

— Nizar Qabbani

Translated from Arabic by Paul Weinfield, © 2013

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