Jawdet and Huda Fakhreddine, Lebanon & USA

Warscapes Corona Notebooks

Lebanese poet Jawdat Fakhreddine reflects on the crisis with two new works, "A Street in the Pandemic" and "Microscope." His daughter, Huda, follows his reading with her translation in English. 

Huge thanks to the ArabLit blog which published these poems here and inspired the videos. 


شارع في الوباء


صار أنقى وأوسَعَ ،

عادَ لهُ وجْهُهُ ،

بعدما كان محتجباً في الزحام ،

غدا خالياً ...

ذهبَ العابرون إلى الحَجْرِ ،

غابتْ وجوهٌ لهمْ في حنايا البيوتِ ،

فعادَ لهُ وجْهُهُ .

صار مُنطلِقاً ... يتنزّهُ ،

يختارُ بين اتجاهيْن :

يحلو لهُ واحدٌ ،

ثم يحلو لهُ عكْسُهُ !

يتحدّى الوباءَ ،

هو الآن يُطْلِقُ أنفاسَهُ في فضاءٍ نقيّ ٍ ،

وأما الوباءُ ، فمُنشغِلٌ عنهُ ،

يخطفُ أنفاسَ من قبعوا في مخاوفهمْ ،

في حنايا البيوت ...

هو الآن يمشي طليقاً ،

ويستقبلُ الشمسَ في سَعةٍ ،

والمباني على جانبيْه ظلالُ انتظارٍ سقيمْ.



A Street in the Pandemic

Purer and wider now,

the street has retrieved its face

that was occluded by the crowds.

It is empty now,

the pedestrians quarantined,

their faces folded away in the houses.

It has retrieved its face,

and free, it strolls

one way then another,

longs for one direction

then fancies its opposite.

It taunts the pandemic.

It exhales in the pure air

as the pandemic, distracted,

holds the breaths of those sheltering in their fears,

in the folds of their houses.

The street walks at ease,

welcoming the sun whole-heartedly.

And the buildings stand on its sides,

shadows of ailing anticipation. 




لم أكنْ ألتقي الشمس في البيتِ ،

قبلَ الظهيرة أو بعدَها .

لم أكنْ أحتسي الشايَ بعد الغداءِ ،

على شرفةٍ رحْبةٍ، كنتُ أهملتُها .

لم أكنْ أرتجي أنْ يحلّ السكون ولو مرّةً ،

في ليالي المدينة ِ.

ما كان ذلك يحصل قبلَ الوباء الذي

زجّنا في البيوتِ .

كأنّ الوباءَ الذي لا يُرى مِجْهَرٌ ،

لنرى فيه كيف أُخِذْنا ولم ننتبِهْ

في تضاعيف أيامنا ...

لم أكنْ لأدقّقَ في كائنات الزوايا ،

وفي بعضها جدّدَ الزهرُ أكثرَ من مرّة ٍنفسَهُ .

لم أكنْ لأمرّنَ نفسي على نزهةٍ داخلَ البيتِ ،

أدخلُهُ غرفةً غرفةً ،

فإذا بي أرى ما استقرّ هنا أو هنالك من

عمريَ المنْقضي .

لم أكنْ لأواجهَ مكتبتي كالمهاجر، عاد لكي

يستعيدَ صداقاتِهِ الغابرهْ .

ربما ، حين يمضي الوباءُ ،

سأبقى على ما تعوّدْتُهُ من طقوس ٍخلالَ الوباءِ ،

لأني تعلّمتُ أنْ أتمسّكَ _ أكثرَ من قبْلُ _

بالوقتِ ،

أنْ أتفحَّصَهُ جيّداً ،

أنْ أرى العمْرَ منكمشاً ، جامداً ،

في هُنيْهاتِهِ العابرهْ .



Never before this,

did I meet the sun inside the house

in the morning or the afternoon.

I never had tea after lunch

on the wide balcony I had neglected before this.

I never once wished that silence befall

the city at night,

never before the virus

that has locked us all in.

This invisible virus, as if a lens

so we may see how we’ve lost ourselves

in the folds of days...

I never trained myself to promenade around the house,

from one room to another,

discovering what has settled here or there

of my past days.

Never before did I face my library like a migrant,

returned to rekindle old friendships.

Perhaps, after this pandemic passes,

I will keep the rituals I have acquired in its course

because I've learned to hold on- more than ever before -

to time,

to examine it meticulously

and to find life, clenched and caught,

in its fleeting moments.



Jawdat Fakhreddine is a Lebanese poet and professor of Arabic literature and criticism. He has published more than ten poetry collections and participated in several poetry conferences in the Arab world and outside it. He was awarded the Sheikh Zayed Book Award in 2014 for a collection of children’s poetry. His poems have been translated into German, French, and English. Most recently, an English translation of his collection Lighthouse for the Drowning (BOA Editions, 2017) and selection of poems titled The Sky that Denied Me (University of Texas Press, 2020). He taught for over forty years, most of which were at the Lebanese University. He was a visiting professor at Indiana University, Bloomington for the academic year 2008-2009. He is the author of many articles and critical studies and has published two books in literary criticism. 

Huda J. Fakhreddine is the author of Metapoesis in the Arabic Tradition (Brill, 2015), Zaman saghir taht shams thaniya (A Small Time under a Different Sun) (Dar al-Nahda, 2019), and The Arabic Prose Poem: Poetic Theory and Practice (forthcoming from Edinburgh UP). Her translations of modern Arabic poems have appeared in Banipal, World Literature Today, Nimrod, Asypmtote, ArabLit Quarterly and Middle Eastern Literatures. She teaches Arabic literature at the University of Pennsylvania.