Abdullah Ibn al-Mu’Tazz (21-25)

I did not summon her, but her image cured me,
Changed my loss to a feeling of closeness.

These dreams are an old whore, who brings my love
To bed, where she may warmly rest, no matter how far.

That night, when my friends were out of their box,
The sparkling bubbles in the wine bewitched me,
The sweet dialogue between the flute and the oud.
The night was on the verge of shooting stars

Down on my fuzzy head, and crying out, “Traitor!”

Her face, rung with curls, is the wandering moon.

The chaperone they had paid got drunk
And watched me, in his dreams; while she ended up

Teaching me the taste of her mouth.

You tortured me with puttings off,
And weak excuses. You ought not to spurn
The grey hairs on a man. It’s for that that you are paid.

The night has come upon us, my friend,
Light our fire with your wine
So that, while the world sleeps, we might kiss
The sun in darkness.

Abdullah Ibn al-Mu’Tazz (16-20)

One wonderful but oh-so-short night,
I gave life, then I cut it short:

A shirt that’s folded up and put away.

Once the eyelids of heaven had disfigured the Earth
With their sudden downpour of tempestuous tears,

The sun touched our world and the plains appeared,
Brocaded in silk, the hills a veil of water.

You have seen the moonlit night
Silver-plate the streets of the city,
And the wine coloured pure, as the sun
Edges the glass with a turban of foam.

The daffodil looks long and hard, and not once
Does she blink; her back is bent
By silent raindrops, her palid countenance
Sees the way the sky berates the Earth.

The delays in Baghdad got right on my nerves;
Travelling rarely goes the way you plan it.

I was held up by the city for far too long,
Like a eunuch seized upon by an aged mistress.

Abdullah Ibn al-Mu’Tazz (12-15)

The night of my suffering torment seemed to last so long,
That I believed the sun had shifted sides and united with the stars.

Time, you’ve left me not a single friend.
There’s nothing good in you.

You devour my companions,
Then you insolently turn to me in greeting.

The sun hauled himself high over the canyon,
Whose waters, when the east wind blew,
Quivered in their calm.

Fantasies of golden suits of armour.

A young servant came to me one night,
Anxious to flee her innocence.

When she walked, her body announced to the wind,
‘If you were serious, this is how you would shake

The branches.’

Abdullah Ibn al-Mu’Tazz (9-11)

This is the season of the pilgrim
At the holy mosque in Mecca.
And in Yasiriyah* lovers congregate.
While a moneylender tests his coin,
I read the faces of the passers by.

The cavalry of the dew has mounted flowers
That are spurred by the whip of the breeze.

The countryside gallops for as long as this lasts.

It is as though my heart were in the talon grip of a falcon,
That descended of a morning, took again
To flight, and never did return.

When it wants to hunt, the falcon stirs,
Begins to beat its wings.
A hooded man who crosses, in a single swoop, the courtyard.

He tears my heart, his claws are hooks.
Bound in twine and knotted at the ankle. Aargh…

* Yasiriyah: a garden district in medieval Baghdad.

Abdullah Ibn al-Mu’Tazz (6-8)

You and I should only meet when first the night has fallen.
The sun is a gossip, but the night a pimp
Whose brothel curtains

Conceal many trysts.

Thanks be to God, the moon is new,
Ramadan is at an end.
Quickly, share the wine.
The moon is a silver ship a-sail
And loaded with nuggets of amber.

Rivulets of wine course through the garden,
And the doves singer higher and higher.
Please don’t blame the branches if they dance,
They are drunk on liquor and song.

Abdullah Ibn al-Mu’Tazz (5)

I don’t want to drink amidst the ruins under an open sky,
The belly of a wild ass.

Nor under a roof that sieves the rain while broken walls
Let great mountains of earth pass within.

I want to drink in the morning when the sky appears
Clad in a linen kaftan;

When the breeze from the the east wanders through a flowering garden
That’s shrouded in dew;

And the sparkling sun is like a newly minted coin.

Abdullah Ibn al-Mu’Tazz (1-4)

Behold the beauty of the crescent moon,
Who rising, rends the darkness with her light;
Behold, a silver sickle mowing a meadow,
Black but teeming white with daffodils.

If you are rich, then you are wretched.
All that you need is a countenance
That says

I am a descendant of Adam.

Fetch a bottle, Saqi*, and we shall be merry.
You have seen the night depart and the dawn blaze
Like a shooting star; the Pleiades, seven cups,
Have come and gone. You, Saqi, are the Orient.
The wine is poured and the Occident drinks
Of your burning love.

We’re drowning in torrents of rain
(Someone must have prayed for this).
The sun, his eyes still encrusted with sleep
Tries to break through the soft cloud
Like a eunuch who strains and strives
To penetrate a virgin.

* Saqi: Cup-bearer