The Fortune Teller

She sat with fear in her eyes
Contemplating the upturned cup
She said “Do not be sad, my son
You are destined to fall in love”
My son, Who sacrifices himself for his beloved,
Is a martyr

For long have I studied fortune-telling
But never have I read a cup similar to yours
For long have I studied fortune-telling
But never have I seen sorrows similar to yours
You are predestined to sail forever
Sail-less, on the sea of love
Your life is forever destined
To be a book of tears
And be imprisoned
Between water and fire

But despite all its pains,
Despite the sadness
That is with us day and night
Despite the wind
The rainy weather
And the cyclone
It is love, my son
That will be forever the best of fates

There is a woman in your life, my son
Her eyes are so beautiful
Glory to God
Her mouth and her laughter
Are full of roses and melodies
And her gypsy and crazy love of life
Travels the world
The woman you love
May be your whole world
But your sky will be rain-filled
Your road blocked, blocked, my son
Your beloved, my son, is sleeping

In a guarded palace
He who approaches her garden wall
Who enters her room
And who proposes to her
Or tries to unite her plaits
Will cause her to be lost, my son…lost

You will seek her everywhere, my son
You will ask the waves of the sea about her
You will ask the shores of the seas
You will travel the oceans
And your tears will flow like a river
And at the close of your life
You will find that since your beloved
Has no land, no home, no address
You have been pursuing only a trace of smoke
How difficult it is, my son
To love a woman
Who has neither land, nor home (1)

Nizar Qabbani, ex- diplomat to Syria, died in London 1998. Today, he his celebrated as one of the Middle East’s most beloved and controversial poets for his outspoken dedication to the Arab cause, progressive views on feminism, love and religion. ‘Damascus, What are you doing to me?’ is the story of his life from birth to old age, deeply intertwined to the images of his homeland. He remained unwaveringly loyal to Syria and wrote about his deep nostalgia for Sham in his years abroad:

“When I was a diplomat in Britain
Thirty years ago
My mother would send letters at the beginning of Spring
Inside each letter . . .
A bundle of tarragon . . .
And when the English suspected my letters
They took them to the laboratory
And turned them over to Scotland Yard
And explosives experts.
And when they grew weary of me . . . and my tarragon
They would ask: Tell us, by god . . .
What is the name of this magical herb that has made us dizzy?
Is it a talisman?
Medicine?
A secret code?
What is it called in English?
I said to them: It’s difficult for me to explain…
For tarragon is a language that only the gardens of Sham speak
It is our sacred herb . . .
Our perfumed eloquence
And if your great poet Shakespeare had known of tarragon
His plays would have been better . . .” (2)

Syrian rapper, Omar Offendum has covered the Fortune Teller under the title of Finjan (coffee cup) in both Arabic and English which can be found here:

Noora Ismail

If you wish to read more Nizar Qabbani poetry, much can be found translated into both French and English online.

For his love and erotic poetry:

http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=10347451222&searchurl=an%3Dnizar%2Bqabbani%26amp%3Bbt.x%3D-822%26amp%3Bbt.y%3D-296%26amp%3Bsts%3Dt

(1)    http://allpoetry.com/poem/8526801-The-Fortune-Teller-by-Nizar_Qabbani

(2)    http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/damascus-what-are-you-doing-to-me/

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