Muhammad Afifi Matar – Ancient land

Matar LE P&W March 2024

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing March 2024.

Ancient Land, poem by Muhammad Afifi Matar.

Dr Salwa GoudaTranslated from Arabic by Dr. Salwa Gouda.

Ancient land

I saw it written on the inheritance certificates
A book of man, chisel
And the stone
I saw it spilled from the cracks of summer
Forests of hands that grow in the blood of trees
And faces brought from the clay silt
Woven with green branches, and fruits
And bones that collapsed its shrouds
Overturned a red butterfly, blushed
With fire, clouds, and turmoil in travel.

The inheritance deeds were sealed
With a flaming ring and grilled letters
And on its periphery from the basket of days
A Kufic decoration
And the trail of dusty caravans of flags
And the crowd that resembles an owl’s nest
And the stab of the swordsman and the imam
And the muffled scream!

When my fingers split
And the cursed camel’s joints dried
I stood in the desert under the sun
Waiting for the tughra and the auspicious orders
So, I can whisper
I stood in the desert, despondent and masked
Looking at the surface of the earth
Which is replaced, copied and patched
And whenever the sun fixed its red spears
In my skull

I interrupted the journey of stopping by reading
I take out from the depth of the cloak
The sacred inheritance sheets
And whenever its lines were torn
by the termite
A city collapsed on the heads of
Its inhabitants
Or a castle or kingdom fell under the Roman sandals
Or our borders encroached and fenced off the
If this tree
Did not braid the roots to the depths
Or if she had not cooked the light inside her
And spin the leaves
She would never own an inch over the kingdom
Of ups and downs
That extends into it or casts its patterned shadow
With blossom.

I see you, wild deer
Waiting for me through every mountain in the hollow of every tree
And you run in the traveling clouds
If my cut fingers grew
You would have been – my wild deer –
A young girl
Who gives me her sacred cake
And her fringed, dotted shawl
With red spikes…

© Muhammad Afifi Matar

Muhammad Afifi Matar (1935–28 June 2010), was an Egyptian poet who represents the voices of post-modernism in Arabic poetry. He was born in the village of Ramalat al-Anjab in the Menoufia region of the Nile Delta. Matar received numerous cultural prizes in the Middle East. He published more than 12 volumes of poetry during his lifetime. In addition, his poetry has been translated into several languages including English.

Dr. Salwa Gouda is an Egyptian literary translator, critic, and academic at the English Language and Literature Department at Ain-Shams University. She holds a PhD in English literature and criticism. She received her education at Ain-Shams University and California State University in San Bernardino. She has published several academic books, including “Lectures in English Poetry, and “Introduction to Modern Literary Criticism” and others. She has also contributed to the translation of “The Arab Encyclopedia for Pioneers,” which includes poets and their poetry, philosophers, historians, and men of letters, under the supervision of UNESCO. Additionally, her poetry translations have been published in various international magazines.

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