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Mahwi, 'Untitled'

Mahwi (1830-1906), 'Untitled'

(translated from the Kurdish by Danar Rashid and A.M. Levinson-Labrosse)


As he places his lips on my lips, my soul rises.
As his lips depart, my soul vanishes.
Holding sugar, savoring of salt, any way it tasted, I would say:
The blossom, new and opening, is that mouth, those lips.
Anyone seeing my beloved in a crowd would say,
“God, who are all those monsters around this angelic being!”
The days exist for the night, as time to strive for sustenance.
Even a king, if he lets the day pass by, will weather the night hungry.
Spring was a beauty that became old autumn’s mockery:
The garden and its traces have vanished, only a handful of twigs remains.
Even the city of non-existence is now no place to be wild:
It is a desert belonging to Majnun [1], mountains designated for Kohkan [2].
It is inevitable idiocy for Mahwi, driven as he is by the deceit of the self built from evil [3].
Only the mercy of God could close [4] the mouth of that biting snake [5].

  [1] A poor young man who fell in love with a plain woman. He swore, against all others’ protests, that his beloved was beautiful beyond compare.  Because of his poverty, she would not marry him. Mad with love, he wandered into the desert to finish out his days.
 [2] Another man without fortune who fell in love with a beautiful woman married to a rich man. Consumed with love, he moved into the mountains to carve his beloved’s name, Shirin, into every stone.
 [3] In Islam, there are two selves, analogous to the proverbial angel and devil that appear on our shoulders. One self is built from good, one from evil.  At the end of this line, Mahwi plays with this concept using the phrase, “the self built” - a shortening of that full phrase, “the self built from evil.” To render the full meaning for English speakers, we’ve included the full phrase.
 [4] “Close” here has violent undertones - more like slamming a door than like closing a book.
 [5] It’s possible that this poem is actually several poems shoved together. As classical poems have been passed down, distinct poems have often been combined.  


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