Nov 182012

Soul and Gone: the Internet’s Official Druze Hebrew Poetry in English Translation Clearinghouse. I tried to make this translation fully rhyme to match the structure of the original, in which the rhymes seem a bit dopey at times (intentionally?), but in the end I was not entirely successful. After I hit the “Publish” button, rest assured I shall fall on my sword, which of course I got at a chintzy gift shop in a tourist-oriented Druze village.

Salman Masalha (1953 – )
I Am an Arab Poet

An Arab poet, I am he
Who dyes it all in black.
I’ll break the seal of my heart
For a world that’s turning back.

A poet, he who will write rhymes
In which brother sits with brother.1
Who falsely magnified, at times,
Mother, curse her name, and father.

And in the east the sun shall shine
Over a land in thrall to dust
And on the hands the callus blooms.
The village girls do too.

To keep his dreams the child hoped
before he was betrayed.
When he was born, he found in hand
A little spoon of Hell.

An Arab poet, I am he
The word will bear it all.
Letters sprouted in my heart
My foot thrusts towards the dance.

סלמאן מצאלחה / سلمان مصالحة‎
אני משורר ערבי

אֲנִי הוּא מְשׁוֹרֵר עֲרָבִי
שֶׁצּוֹבֵעַ הַכֹּל בְּשָׁחֹר.
אֶפְתַּח אֶת סְגוֹר לִבִּי
לָעוֹלָם שֶׁסּוֹבֵב לְאָחוֹר.
מְשׁוֹרֵר יִכְתֹּב חֲרוּזִים
עַל שֶׁבֶת אָח וְאָחִיו.
בַּכָּזָב הוּא מְעַט הִגְזִים
אִמּוֹ תְּקֻלַּל וְאָבִיו.
וְהַשֶּׁמֶשֶׁ בַּמִּזְרָח תִּזְרַח
עַל אֶרֶץ בִּשְׁבִי הֶעָפָר
בַּיָּדַיִם יַבָּלוֹת תִּפְרַחְ־
נָה. וְגַם נַעֲרוֹת הַכְּפָר.
לִנְצֹר חֲלוֹמוֹת רָצָה
הַיֶּלֶד עוֹד טֶרֶם נִבְגַּד.
כַּאֲשֶׁר הוּא נוֹלַד מָצָא
כַּפִּית שֶׁל שְׁאוֹל בַּיָּד.
אֲנִי הוּא מְשׁוֹרֵר עֲרָבִי
הַמִּלָּה תִּסְבֹּל אֶת הַכֹּל.
אוֹתִיּוֹת צִמְּחוּ בְּלִבִּי
רַגְלִי תוֹחֶבֶת לְמָחוֹל.


‘Aní hu meshoréir ʕaraví
She-tzovéiaʕ ha-kól be-shaḥór.
‘Eftáḥ ‘et segór libí
La-ʕolám she-sovéiv le-‘aḥór.

Meshoréir yikhtóv ḥaruzím
ʕal shévet ‘aḥ ve-‘aḥív.
Ba-kazáv hu meʕát higzím
‘Imó tekulál ve-‘avív.

Ve-ha-shémesh ba-mizráḥ tizráḥ
ʕal ‘éretz bishví he-ʕafár
Ba-yadáyim yabalót tifráḥ-
nah. Ve-gám naʕarót ha-kefár.

Lintzór ḥalomót ratzáh
Ha-yéled ʕod térem nivgád.
Ka’ashér hu nolád matzá
Kapít shel she’ól ba-yád.

‘Aní hu meshoréir ʕaraví
Ha-miláh tisból ‘et ha-kól.
‘Otiyót tzimḥú be-libí
Raglí toḥévet le-maḥól.

  1. Like that moderately unbearable Jewish song drawn from Psalm 133, “Hineh mah tov u-mah naʕim shevet aḥim gam yaḥad” — “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to sit together.”

  4 Responses to “Salman Masalha, “Ani Meshoreir Aravi””

  1. The last line is actually רגלי תותבת למחול “my leg is prosthetic(izing) to dance.” It’s a bit of wordplay.

  2. Intentionally dopey? Yes. The rhymes are intentionally dopey. Especially in stanza 2, it’s a bit of self-mockery. Using the word כזב which means both “falsity” and “poetic form” and commenting on his overdoing it, quoting a psalm that has itself already been quoted in an Israeli song….yeah, that stanza’s rhymes are meant to be self-mocking.

    Though the rhyme of ערבי and לבי is interesting. It suggests, to my eye, an Arabized pronunciation of the beth of ערבי, in the manner of a native Arabic speaker who is not entirely at home with Israeli Hebrew. Though fact that he includes in-jokes about poetic form makes me wonder about another possibility: that that rhyme evokes the medieval Arabizing Hebrew rhyming practice where the bedagesh’d beth was allowed to rhyme with the fricative version.

    Good choice with “break the seal on my heart” evoking the breaking of hearts themselves.

    Not so much with rendering שאול as “Hell.” It’s not Gehenna we’re talking about. I’d think…”grave” or “netherworld” or something might be more fitting.

  3. Also I don’t think in Stanza 2, that the 4th line is actually the object of the 3rd. I think הִגְזִים is meant to not have an object following it. I take the two lines of stanza 2 to mean: “He just went too far with contrivance/ his mother be cursed and his father.

  4. I made a recording of this poem here. What you hear in that recording, by the by, is my natural way of pronouncing Hebrew (when I’m not suppressing it lest people judge me in whatever way.) For a poem like this, the un-suppression of it seemed particularly apposite.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



Are you a Russian spam robot? Prove it: *