Old Collection


Anwar Al-Ghassani


(Updated July, 25, 1997)

(Poems not identified as translations were written directly in English)

Elegy I

(for Lidia Vladimirova Tasseva)

No hope of retrieving your face given to me with coffee
In the yellowish winter afternoons.
No assurance except through my lonely return
To past wealth
To hear you laughing: Michok! Michokchik!
Audio light in your charming face
Dew vapor, timed vigor
And you, joyfully calm, of consequences unaware
Guarding your familiarity with noble thoughts
Initiating the playful retention of feelings.

Salt, stones, water and oil
Smooth surfaces borne by quivers
Spacial festivities
Unifying initiation and end of kisses.
Invisible light,
Dispersed on crimson flowers in passages of ancient shades
Upon urns on the coast,
Molds, decaying, with memories lost
Since the glaze undulated on the chalk.
Urns, with inner heat cooled
Void of sea basin reminiscence
Vacant, save odors of conchy creatures
Offerings to the sea Installed at an hour
Attuning the morning with the tiny shadows
Noises of swimmers with pots clamoring in the kitchens
The jangle of plates and spoons with the sea roar at ten-thirty,
And the light on sealed paint,
Poured on glass flowers shaped for eternity,
But, now, pale, decaying.

At night, fragrance of kisses
Disappears in a zephyr
Scatters among stones, branches, wrinkled waves, And urns;
These monuments, miniature shrines
Centuries of hidden offerings
Only the echo of broken wind
Resounds in their now hollow necks
Admonishing against retreat
Warmth is worthwhile
Also, wine and shells at "Mary Dragon."
Monuments of smokeless shrines,
Time drops in their cavities
Like liquid light, floating burning focal points.

A life it was, parallel
To the light of frailty,
Of flights in solitude, in hostile tubes
A hope for the advent of leniency.
But you too departed, replenishing,
Inflaming and extinguishing planets,
Captive in the time continuum, transforming,
In the oblivious tenderness
That links and drives all things.

Anwar Al-Ghassani
Feb. 15, 1989

Copyright (C) 1989 by Anwar Al-Ghassani
From: Sources, 1989
Translated from Arabic by the author
Revised by Kari Meyers.

* Michok! Michokchik!: playful variation of the Bulgarian word for bear or teddy bear.


Elegy III

(for L.W.T.)

The skin of your shoulders,
supporting your dress,
is severely flavoured,
passively displayed, beneath the sun.

O reinvent my sleep,
let me be a shadow,
hugging your slumbering body,
at the birth of a world,
apparently past, apparently present,
so cruel, so absent.

Anwar Al-Ghassani
March 30, 1995

Copyright (C) 1995 by Anwar Al-Ghassani


Elegy IV

(for L.W.T.)

I decline to hear your voice singing: Signor! Signor!
I fear its desolation.

Your voice extracted our moments
from ancestral history of torture,
approached the ultimate frontier
and returned to itself.
You proclaimed a liberation,
not yet missed or desired,
an imperative of your voice,
retrieved from childhood,
arriving at night, inoffensive yet playful.

Bitterness, in your voice,
originating from innocence,
devastated our communion.
You sang to offset the void.

Anwar Al-Ghassani
April 1, 1995

Copyright (C) 1995 by Anwar Al-Ghassani


Elegy V

(for Lidia W.T.)

Though my eyes were insatiable,
your presence despaired me.
I labyrinthed in the fragrance
of your detailed existence,
incapable of maintaining my body
staring, at you.

Now, in my memory,
there is no more a high-definition presence of you,
only a cracking image,
fragments slowly centrifuging,
away into the space,
finite idea, matter infinite.

Is it you, or is it the image,
transforming to primeval form, to dust,
boomeranging my agonizingly alert memory?

Where are you, pristine being,
pulsating, augmenting my energy?
Time is bleeding away,
My eyes, insatiable as ever,
would wander, search and recover,
no images, no fragments,
but dust upon dust, forever.

Anwar Al-Ghassani
March 30, 1995
Copyright (C) 1995 by Anwar Al-Ghassani



[ Injana and its hinterland ]


Region of sterilized earth and storms of drizzling, burning scents, imprudent, earth of leather, flatness eroded by wind. Emptiness. No excrescence save some pebbles, no trees. Dust columns arise, then wilt and die. At night, lizards remain hours with eyes fixed at the moon. At dawn, in dampness, seeds, self-forgotten for ages, awake, but the sun appears, disperses the dew. The seeds lose memory and return to hibernate. Here and there, traces of feet en route to the horizon. Where did they come from, when, where did they go?


Plain earth and eroded trails. A sun obsessed by greenness, estranged. Zenith and extension. Here is stiff aridness, moisture grabber. Here is pastoral muteness at sunset, when sheep have no concern but to ruminate.


They are over there, hunting hyenas and gazelles. A cloud of cold dust took them to the waters of fata morgana. There, where lawns, irrigated at midday, map the earth. They crossed over long afternoon shadows with their golden stars, leaving traces in the thick fragile soil. These men, what took them out of their brown beds, sliding slenderly through historic gaps? What festivities, banquets, in the desert evening attracted rifle smoke to the cold stone? Or were they mouths of sacred innocence, in their memories, that made them feel sorrow for the faded joy in this waste? In this land, neighboring happiness in old-new hearts. In hearts, oscillating between agony and richness of quiet moments, locked up in their daily making, not recognizing themselves.


This region, hovering over a spiral orbit, is residue of an absent sea. This region is a dehydrated sea shaded with chalk, not a sea with closed green, but a sea in which no fishy turtles, strained under the deepened sun, are resting upon sand stones. These are rivers without banks, unlike seas framed by coasts. They are traces of scattered currents, humid landing spots beneath the stones and in the thorn channels. These silent shadows are born of the sun, live, then die in the evening, making room for smaller, dark, rosy shadows under the moon, and for other tiny, young and stealthy shadows, born of the stars' ceiling, burnished by dazzling black alcohol.

Anwar Al-Ghassani
March 3, 1989

Copyright (C) 1989 Anwar Al-Ghassani
From: Sources, 1989
Translated from Arabic by the author
Revised by Kari Meyers.

*) Al-Khurfa: arid region between Baghdad and Kirkuk in Iraq. The region extends until it reaches the Diyala river, an arm of Tigris. From there on, down to Baghdad, the landscape changes and becomes a plain rich in agriculture and industry.
**) Injana: town and oil field at the outset of Al-Khurfa, after crossing the arid Himrin mountains.


Family Talk

(for Mahmoud Sami Jarjis Bek Al Ahmed Pasha)

You never matured and remained a stripling,
Tired of mould and fire Among papers, inks and punchers,
And that silly thorn at the window,
Divided between probable happiness and our faces,
Carrying plates of calligraphy And love for Umru El-Kais,
Relating curious tales.

But your lucid mind perceived our search
So you joined us Colouring houses and birds.

Now I realize, Since you are cheerful,
You will decline my proposal To freeze you In a statue.

Anwar Al-Ghassani
March 13, 1989

Copyright (C) 1989 Anwar Al-Ghassani
From: Sources, 1989
Translated from Arabic by the author
Revised by Kari Meyers.
*) My father (1911-1986). Mahmoud Sami: my father's combined name; Jarjis: my grandfather; Bek: a lower nobility title during the period of the Ottoman Empire. Iraq was part of the empire until the British occupation in 1917; Al: from (or belonging to) the family, clan, tribe; Ahmed: my grandgrandfather; Pasha: highest nobility title, he was a general in the Turkish army.
**) Umru El-Kais (500 - 540), one of the seven greatest Arab poets of the period before Islam.


Beethoven: Concert for Piano and Orchestra No. 3

This sequence of excitement and sleep
A termination of inability to calm,
Merriness on waves of internal glare
Within broader waves, iridescent,
Approaching with a speed
Of designed accuracy.

Here I am. But my return extends
Only forward.

Anwar Al-Ghassani
April 11, 1989

Copyright (C) 1989 Anwar Al-Ghassani
From: Sources, 1989
Transalted from Arabic by the author
Revised by Kari Meyers.



Beasts and reptilia
See him,
A welcome presence
In gardens of conditioned sounds.
No songs shuddering the earth,
No talk, no fires, no joy proclaimed.
Only the pursuit of the day's tasks
And muted noise of whispers from far away.

Anwar Al-Ghassani
May 19, 1989

Copyright (C) 1995 Anwar Al-Ghassani
From: Sources, 1989
Translated from Arabic by the author
Revised by Kari Meyers.


Envisions of Bulgaria: Kavarna

The Bay

At noontide, the sand is flowing between the rocks. A stream receding to its dried up spring. Light sweeping all over the serene place. Phantoms descend from the hill, disappear among the people at the beach - noisy, water splashing, eating melons under sunshades. Tunes, audio hideouts, jingle in the softening wind - then the silence.


Not the church, the stained glass windows, eloquent, humming to sunflower fields. A negative of the meeting at Kavarna Municipal Hall: transparent heads and hollow torsos of babies with their mothers. Collective spirit of playfulness. Eclipsed joy of being alive. Pride of not missing the faith which only the company of nonviolent people can offer. A drifting scene. We stay here, on this side of the divide, floating over the water.

Sensible Horizon

Offerings: screaming roses and cheese. Sea breeze spreading into the "Chaika" restaurant. "And thou art still thinking of the forty virgins - protesting against the invaders - flying from the rock down to the sea at Cape Kaliakra? Roses for you! Don't shout 'Heavens! What vegetables!' Don't smash a window in the plane to toss them down from 30.000 ft. altitude. Don't abandon them in the plane either. That would hurt the old man."

The Dance Party

Thick is the night. The names of the objects in the bay, given by renegade minds, are being extinguished. Objects, sounds, lights, and dancers intermingle, loose distinctiveness, and glow. An energy, native of seaside night, a gentle storm, sways them between sensed danger and homeliness. After a while, they slow down, the earth is relaxed and the scene is dry.


Rose oil in the crystal glass. Here is a day, and a ration of air to caress your body, and over there an arc of dry branches for the entrance to your future open space, overlooking the Bay of Kavarna.

Anwar Al-Ghassani
June 3, 1995

Copyright (C) 1995 Anwar Al-Ghassani



Darkened air has the night.

Passionflowers climb glass columns,
radiate thrifty hues.
Crisp images of objects,
hurt the looking eye.

No evaporating bodies in fire chambers or in the open.
Under the nocturnal sun, in noisy fields,
lizards noctambulating, laying eggs on mirrors.

You have triumphed over yourselves,
so, do not exclude your sorrow.
You do remember the evening,
as you returned from the fields
with bunches of buttercups
and found the houses, deserted.

Anwar Al-Ghassani
May 6, 1995

Copyright (C) 1995 Anwar Al-Ghassani

I love India

India - effective harvest
of dead fruit and stiff corn,
an amulet or a diamond,
images triggered by a power
that run amuck
as fruit gum sprinkled
on my tongue.

Cold and warmth of Indian food.
Dried Lemons of an ancient era,
of centuries of learning people,
of dissipated blood.

Dark hairs drenched in olive oil;
voices, related to eating --
craving for playing
in a landscape
melting their mocking tones.

White garments fluttering in the breeze;
Streamlining bodies
pulsating with desire,
perceived as love bordering perversity,
driving us towards godhood --,
an idea, gaseous dynamite.
Love, carved in marble,
and souls, ours, flying away.

How these eyes, so voluptuous,
make death an intuitive event
and incite us to touch
the flesh of the beast.

Men and women are ideas,
white clothes are they and phantoms;
horror of our lives,
antidoton of baroque decorations,
those archaic empires.

It is not the mouth that is crying,
it is the whole body screaming.

Anwar Al-Ghassani
April 24, 1997
Copyright (C) 1997 Anwar Al-Ghassani