Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984)


This is the way that autumn came to the trees:
it stripped them down to the skin,
left their ebony bodies naked.
It shook out their hearts, the yellow leaves,
scattered them over the ground.
Anyone could trample them out of shape
undisturbed by a single moan of protest.

The birds that herald dreams
were exiled from their song,
each voice torn out of its throat.
They dropped into the dust
even before the hunter strung his bow.

Oh, God of May have mercy.
Bless these withered bodies
with the passion of your resurrection;
make their dead veins flow with blood again.

Give some tree the gift of green again.
Let one bird sing.

               (translated by Naomi Lazard)


Today, as usual, the mind goes hunting for a word,
one filled with venom, a word
sultry with honey, heavy with love,
     smashing with fury.
The word of love must be brilliant as a glance
which greets the eye like a kiss on the lips,
bright as a summer river, its surface streaming gold,
joyous as the moment when the beloved enters
     for the appointed meeting.

The word of rage must be a ferocious blade
that brings down for all time the oppressor's citadel.
The word must be dark as the night of a crematorium;
if I bring it to my lips
     it will blacken them forever.

Today every instrument is forsaken by its melody,
and the singer's voice goes searching for its singer.
Today the chords of every harp are shredded
like a madman's shirt. Today
the people beg each gust of wind
to bring any sound at all, even a lamentation,
even a scream of anguish,
or the last trump crying the hour of doom.

               (translated by Naomi Lazard)


Before you came things were just what they were:
the road precisely a road, the horizon fixed,
the limit of what could be seen,
a glass of wine no more than a glass of wine.

With you the world took on the spectrum
radiating from my heart: your eyes gold
as they open to me, slate the colour
that falls each time I lose all hope.

With your advent roses burst into flame:
you were the artist of dried-up leaves, sorceress
who flicked her wrist to change dust into soot.
You lacquered the night black.

As for the sky, the road, the cup of wine:
one was my tear-drenched shirt,
the other an aching nerve,
the third a mirror that never reflected the same thing.

Now you are here again - stay with me.
This time things will fall into place;
the road can be the road,
the sky nothing but the sky;
the glass of wine, as it should be, the glass of wine.

               (translated by Naomi Lazard)

Return to:

Revised: February 28, 1996