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I Dreamt I Was a Donkey-Boy Again / Ameen Rihani

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Ameen Rihani  (born in 1876 in what is today Lebanon – 1940), was an Arab-American writer, intellectual and political activist

I dreamt I was a donkey-boy again.
Out on the sun-swept roads of Baalbek, I tramp behind my burro, trolling my mulayiah.
At noon, I pass by a garden redolent of mystic scents and tarry awhile.
Under an orange tree, on the soft green grass, I stretch my limbs.
The daisies, the anemones, and the cyclamens are round me pressing:
The anemone buds hold out to me their precious rubies; the daisies kiss me in the eyes and lips; and the cyclamens shake their powder in my hair.
On the wall, the roses are nodding, smiling; above me the orange blossoms surrender themselves to the wooing breeze; and on yonder rock the salamander sits, complacent and serene.
I take a daisy, and, boy as boys go, question its petals:
Married man or monk, I ask, plucking them off one by one,
And the last petal says, Monk.
I perfume my fingers with crumpled cyclamens, cover my face with the dark-eyed anemones, and fall asleep.
And my burro sleeps beneath the wall, in the shadow of nodding roses.
And the black-birds too are dozing, and the bulbuls flitting by whisper with their wings, ‘salaam.’
Peace and salaam!
The bulbul, the black-bird, the salamander, the burro, and the burro-boy, are to each other shades of noon-day sun:
Happy, loving, generous, and free;––
As happy as each other, and as free.
We do what we please in Nature’s realm, go where we please;
No one’s offended, no one ever wronged.
No sentinels hath Nature, no police.
But, a goblin as I sleep comes forth;––
A goblin taller than the tallest poplar, who carries me upon his neck to the Park in far New York.
Here women, light-heeled, heavy-haunched, pace up and down the flags in graceful gait.
My roses these, I cry, and my orange blossoms.
But the goblin placed his hand upon my mouth, and I was dumb.
The cyclamens, the anemones, the daisies, I saw them, but I could not speak to them.
The goblin placed his hand upon my mouth, and I was dumb.
O take me back to my own groves, I cried, or let me speak.
But he threw me off his shoulders in a huff, among the daisies and the cyclamens.
Alone among them, but I could not speak.
He had tied my tongue, the goblin, and left me there alone.
And in front of me, and towards me, and beside me,
Walked Allah’s fairest cyclamens and anemones.
I smell them, and the tears flow down my cheeks;
I can not even like the noon-day bulbul
Whisper with my wings, salaam!
I sit me on a bench and weep.
And in my heart I sing
O, let me be a burro-boy again;
O, let me sleep among the cyclamens
Of my own land.

From The Book of Khaled

Filed under: Arab lit and art, Articles, English

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