Fady Joudah & Mahmoud Darwish

The Damascene Collar of the Dove


In Damascus,
the doves fly
behind the silk fence
two . . .
by two . . .

In Damascus:
I see all of my language
written with a woman’s needle
on a grain of wheat,
refined by the partridge of the Mesopotamian rivers

In Damascus:
the names of the Arabian horses have been embroidered,
since Jahili times
and through judgment day,
or after,
. . . with gold threads

In Damascus:
the sky walks
barefoot on the old roads,
So what’s the poet’s use
of revelation
and meter
and rhyme?

In Damascus:
the stranger sleeps
on his shadow standing
like a minaret in eternity’s bed
not longing for a land
or anyone . . .

In Damascus:
the present tense continues
its Umayyad chores:
we walk to our tomorrow certain
of the sun in our yesterday.
Eternity and we
inhabit this place!

In Damascus:
the dialogue goes on
between the violin and the oud
about the question of existence
and about the endings:
whenever a woman kills a passing lover
she attains the Lotus Tree of Heaven!

In Damascus:
Youssef tears up,
with the flute,
his ribs
Not for a reason,
other than that
his heart wasn’t with him

In Damascus:
speech returns to its origin,
poetry isn’t poetry
and prose isn’t prose
And you say: I won’t leave you
so take me to you
and take me with you!

In Damascus:
a gazelle sleeps
besides a woman
in a bed of dew
then the woman takes off her dress
and covers Barada with it!

In Damascus:
a bird picks
at what is left of wheat
in my palm
and leaves for me a single grain
to show me my tomorrow

In Damascus:
The jasmine dallies with me:
Don’t go far
and follow my tracks
Then the garden becomes jealous:
Don’t come near
the blood of night in my moon

In Damascus:
I keep my lighthearted dream company
and laughing on the almond blossom:
Be realistic
that I may blossom again
around her name’s water
And be realistic
that I may pass in her dream!

In Damascus:
I introduce myself
to itself:
Right here, beneath two almond eyes
we fly together as twins
and postpone our mutual past

In Damascus:
speech softens
and I hear the sound of blood
in the marble veins:
Snatch me away from my son
(she, the prisoner, says to me)
or petrify with me!

In Damascus:
I count my ribs
and return my heart to its trot
Perhaps the one who granted me entry
to her shadow
has killed me,
and I didn’t notice . . .

In Damascus:
the stranger gives her howdah back
to the caravan:
I won’t return to my tent
I won’t hang my guitar,
after this evening,
on the family’s fig tree . . .

In Damascus:
poems become diaphanous
They’re neither sensual
nor intellectual
they are what echo says
to echo . . .

In Damascus:
the cloud dries up by afternoon,
then digs a well
for the summer of lovers in the Qysoon valley,
and the flute completes its habit
of longing to what is present in it,
then cries in vain

In Damascus:
I write in a woman’s journal:
All what’s in you
of narcissus
desires you
and no fence, around you, protects you
from your night’s excess allure

In Damascus:
I see how the Damascus night diminishes
slowly, slowly
And how our goddesses increase
by one!

In Damascus:
the traveler sings to himself:
I return from Syria
neither alive
nor dead
but as clouds
that ease the butterfly’s burden
from my fugitive soul


“The Collar of the Dove” is a famous manuscript on beauty and the art of love, written in the 11th century by Ibn Hazm, a renowned Andalusian Muslim scholar.

Barada is a small river that runs through Damascus, and Qysoon valley is one of the city’s suburbs.

Oud is a stringed instrument resembling the lute.

The Lotus Tree of Heaven, Sidrat al-Montaha (the highest degree of attainment) is a fantastic tree that arises form the Seventh Heaven and reaches God’s throne.

Youssef: son of Jacob.