I

For the fifth year you come to us
lugging a burlap sack on your back, barefoot,
on your face the sadness of heavens
and the pain of Hussein.
We’ll receive you at every airport
with flower bouquets,
and drink — to your health — rivers of wine.
We’ll sing
and recite insincere poems in your presence,
and you’ll get used to us
and we to you.

II

We ask you to spend here your summer vacation,
like a tourist,
and we’ll offer you a royal suite
we’ve prepared — for you.
You may enjoy the night and the neon lights
and the rock and roll and the porno and the jazz —
here we know of no grief, nor the ones who grieve.
You’ll find in my country all that pleases you,
furnished flats for lovers,
liquor for drinkers,
and harem for the caliph.
Why are you so broken-winged?
Sad-faced guest,
we have water streams and gross and fair maidens —
why are you so diffident?
We’ll make you forget Palestine
and from your eyes pluck the tree of tears,
and from the Qur’an erase the verses,
the Compassionate and the Conquest,
and we’ll assassinate Jesus Christ and grant you an Arab passport
that has no exit visa.

III

Fifth year
sixth
seventh
eighth
ninth
tenth year
what do the years count for?
All our grand cities, from the Euphrates to the Nile,
are bereft of memory, of remembrance.
We’ve forgotten the men lost in the Sinai
and our dead are dead.
What do the years count for?
We’ve prepared wreaths and the scarfs
and composed all the speeches
and carved, a week before you arrive,
the marble of the tombstones.
O Orient that feeds on the paper of communiqués
and walks — like a lamb — behind all banners.
O Orient that writes the names of its fallen men
on the faces of mirrors on the waists of belly dancers —
what do the years count for?
what do the years count for?

Translated by Sharif Elmusa

How to cite this article:

Nizar Qabbani "An Invitation for the Fifth of June," Middle East Report 146 (May/June 1987).
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