My Voice... Startled Me!

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"My Voice... Startled Me!" by Ali al-Jundi
English Arabic

In my sleep I saw a time with no
people, no flowers and no…
Only butterflies. Butterflies and two birds from
my heart's alabaster and no
sound except a reed-flute singing of love
with lonesome longing.
His voice startled me!
Commanding me:
“Up and read The Fateha*!”

I did not submit
It howled without mercy:
I did not write nor read nor...
The voice moved away, shouting: “write or else!”
I said: “or else what?
Here I remain,
prince of flowers,
elder of butterflies
companion of birds,
no family or tribe!
Master from a galloping fire...”

Then, the dream ended.
I awoke surrounded by a forenoon
and all that would kill me
till the gusting of evening!
But I continued playing with my sorrows and dreams,
 alone, together.
I erected a statue for my love upon
the hill of desire
and fenced it
with summer rain
so that
near it, I am home;
away from it, a flood would drown it...

…And here I am digging a tunnel
under my kin
resolute, persevering maybe
in my labor I will find a treasure—
a glass cup or a doll
crafted from history’s papers
or woven from sun’s threads
or maybe, or maybe!!


I tended to my sleep once more.
I came upon a land whose taste is bitter.
Its people crawling.
No burning sun or stinging cold,
but they were shivering!
Half of them dead.
They frowned upon my appearance.
Denied that amongst them was my family.
I screamed at them loudly, loudly:
“Listen to me and understand me.”
They found my words alien
and crept far away from me
without a sound
or a gesture.
I shrieked in frustration:
“Hey you...“
My voice awakened me,
so I huddled in silence!!

 ... رأيتُ في نومي زماناً بلا
   ناسٍ ولا زهرٍ ولا...
غير فراشاتٍ ، فراشاتٍ وعصفورين من
مرمرِ قلبي ولا..
صوت سوى نايٍ يغني الهوى
في وحشةٍ
    و ... فجأةً:
          فاجأني صوتُهْ!
         هيّا اقرا الفاتحَهْ!
لم أمتثلْ
        صاح بلا رحمةٍ:
أكتبْ ،
فلم أكتب ولم اقرأ ولم...
صار بعيداً ، صاح، إقرأ وإلّا ..
     قلت: إلّا...
إنني ها هنا قاعدٌ ،
وحدي ،
      أمير الزهر،
            شيخ الفراشات
عشير الطير ، لا أهلٌ ولا قبيلة!
سيْدٌ من النار التي تخبو...
ثم... انتهى الحلم،
أفقتُ ، الضحى حولي
وكل الذي
يميتني حتى هبوب المسا!
.. لكنّني واصلتُ وحدي معاً؛
لعبي بأحزاني وأحلامي،
أقمتُ تمثالاً لحبي على
            رابية الشهوة
            بالمطر الصيفيّ
            حتى إذا
            قاربته لم أغتربْ
            باعدتُه عاجله الوكفُ...
... وها أنا أحفرُ سردابَةً
تحت عشيري دائباً ، دائباً
عثرتُ في شغلي على كنزٍ ،
على كوبٍ من البلّور أو دميةٍ
من ورق التاريخ مشغولةٍ
أو من نسيج الشمس منسوجةٍ
أو .. ربما، أو ربما!!
.. قارفت نومي مرةْ أخرى:
فجئتُ أرضاً طعمُها مرُّ،
وناسها يزحفونْ
لا شمس تكويهم ولا بردُ
           ولكنّهم يرعشونْ!
           ونصفهم ميتونْ..
واستنكروا شكلي
وأنكروا أنْ بينهم أهلي
صرخت فيهم عالياً ، عالياً...
أَن اسمعوني وافهموا
فاستغربوا قولي...
وزحفوا عني بعيداً
          بلا صوتٍ
ولا إيمائةٍ ،
     فصحتُ من قهري
يا.. أيقظني صوتي
فلذتُ بالصمتِ!!


"My Voice... Startled Me!" was originally published in Arabic. The first line is taken from the first line of the Quran.


The poem is written in the free verse style of Arabic poetry known as nather (نثر) developed in the Middle East during the mid-1900s. As such, it does not have a strict meter or rhyming structure, but rather uses punctuation and new lines to convey the intended concepts and emotion.

Other Works[edit]


  • English translation by Lahab Assef al-Jundi
  • Formatting issues in the Arabic version may cause punctuation to display incorrectly. A fix is in progress.