i take you an orange

i take you an orange

This photo reminded me of a beautiful poem by Syrian poet Huda Naamani. Here it is, as translated from the Arabic by the poet and Miriam Cooke:

I take you an orange and I squeeze you holding you to my face
Spring you blossom in my eyes
A peacock’s tail you gaze at me in the dark
I wear you gipsy garb I fold you a nomad’s cloak
A flute grass and warmth of sheep flow with you
In the arms of mountains you paint the wreaths of heaven
And the pains of a goddess

A frame for me I carve you I gild you and
I fill you with roses
A fish I slaughter you, or a sun
I bake you
A star
Lightning flashes from your ring
Your eyes hang on my face coffee grounds honeycombs
Nigerian songs brush my neck, flocks of geese
Your word is suspended on the back of a door a duck’s nose

[From Opening the Gates: A Century of Arab Feminist Writing. Edited by Margot Badran and Miriam Cooke, Indiana University Press. ]

I particularly love the line “A peacock’s tail you gaze at me in the dark,” which, in a reversal from the poem’s first few images, makes the speaker of the poem into an object even as she is describing – in a way, objectifying – the addressee. Anyone who’s witnessed a peacock try to get the attention of a bunch of nonplussed peahens (hilarious) can appreciate how the poet, an Arab woman, is playing on courtship rituals and gender dynamics…one wonders if the (literal/figurative) eyes in the tail of a peacock aren’t always a bit “in the dark.”

The manipulations of agency are intriguing, but most of all it’s the images that I find stunning as I read and reread this particular poem. I love especially arms of mountains, honeycombs, a duck’s nose…

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