Yasmine Seale Translates Saadia Mufarreh

Saul Leiter, 1959. Source: robertacucchiaro.wordpress.com

You’re not there 

but details linger. Who knows how

they trickle in and scurry out, 

how they hum like a knot

of sandgrouse caught

in the snare of distance, 

laying waste 

to silence, that stranger

not to be trusted,

getting the better of love,

that looted thing. 

They keen and do not fold 

when a flash of the one they like best 

across the wilds of their distress 

tugs at them with its young 

bright ungovernable face.

Your absence sounds the bell 

of my presence and fells it.

When you’re not there

my sadness is careful

to draw its limbs

close and under 

my surface sinks, 

and when you are 

it swells and sinks me.

Is there not a strait

between this and that

on whose shores we play

at being not-sad?

You’re not there: here I am

saddling the horse of my doubts.

Your absence 

is a quick-tempered river:

when it appears I powder 

all the dolls of my desire

into angels of love, and I hang 

all the arbours of my heart 

with canopies for their sport.

I buff them and dress them

in anklets, I hold them to the light 

until they turn to suns 

dancing with your tide, 

drunk on it, high 

and haughty and new,

and strew their pretty henna

birdwise on the water,

and score seven green windows

and light seven green flames,

and their coo rises cracked

and soft as prayer to the haze

of palms rubbed with resin,

with incense and rose, 

and the season’s cool ruin.

The anklets are what silvered 

your face’s nights, seven times

they call to you.

Will they take over

when my waters recede?

When you’re not there

your absence, being there,

is sweeter, 

and when your absence

is not there your being there 

is sweeter still. How is it

that being there is absent

and absence ever present,

and absence evanescent?

Memories are 

the bruise of not being 

there and mine are 

not going anywhere.