A Lesson in Drawing

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Dara’a, as the tanks roll in. A Lesson in Drawing.
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GUNS, BOMBS AND FATIGUES IN THE JASMINE LAND

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by Nizar Qabbani
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Nizar Qabbani, the noted Syrian poet was born on 21 March 1923 in Damascus. His mother, who was illiterate, sold her jewelry to raise money to publish his first anthology, Childhood of a Bosom (1948), and he went on to become the most popular Arab poet and to publish more than 20 books of poetry.

Much of his poetry was influenced by the tragic deaths of two women he loved. When he was 15, his older sister committed suicide rather than be forced into marriage with a man she did not love, and he turned his attention to the situation of Arab women. He wrote romantic, sensual poems and poetry demonstrating the need for sexual equality and women’s rights.

Many years later, in 1981, his second wife, an Iraqi woman, died during the Lebanese Civil War when the Iraqi Embassy was bombed. Qabbani was grief-stricken and frustrated with the political and cultural climate of the Arab world, and he lived in Europe for the rest of his life. He died April 30, 1998.

The poem that I reproduce now was written by Nizar Qabbani in context of the conditions that he found prevailing in the Arab world. But once we read his poem, it appears that he composed these verses keeping in view the conditions that prevail in our present day Pakistan. Don’t you think many of our own kids have forgotten th shape of wheatstalks. Instead they are drawing guns in the bttlefields. And where are their battle fields? They are right within us, amongst us, on our own fields, our houses, our bazaars and even our worshipping places. And upon whom have they drawns their guns. Upon us my dear readers, upon us. and so my dear readers: in this hardened time

 

the trees of the forest have joined
the militia men
and the rose wears dull fatigues
In this time of armed wheatstalks
armed birds
armed culture
and armed religion
you can’t buy a loaf
without finding a gun inside
you can’t pluck a rose in the field
without its raising its thorns in your face
you can’t buy a book
that doesn’t explode between your fingers.’

Here now is the complete poem to read and to think why there are now more guns and less roses in the land of Jinnah!! [Nayyar]

***
                                                

My son places his paint box in front of me
and asks me to draw a bird for him.
Into the color gray I dip the brush
and draw a square with locks and bars.
Astonishment fills his eyes:
‘… But this is a prison, Father,
Don’t you know, how to draw a bird?’
And I tell him: ‘Son, forgive me.
I’ve forgotten the shapes of birds.’
 
My son puts the drawing book in front of me
and asks me to draw a wheatstalk.
I hold the pen
and draw a gun.
My son mocks my ignorance,
demanding,
‘Don’t you know, Father, the difference between a
wheatstalk and a gun?’
I tell him, ‘Son,
once I used to know the shapes of wheatstalks
the shape of the loaf
the shape of the rose
But in this hardened time
the trees of the forest have joined
the militia men
and the rose wears dull fatigues
In this time of armed wheatstalks
armed birds
armed culture
and armed religion
you can’t buy a loaf
without finding a gun inside
you can’t pluck a rose in the field
without its raising its thorns in your face
you can’t buy a book
that doesn’t explode between your fingers.’
 
My son sits at the edge of my bed
and asks me to recite a poem,
A tear falls from my eyes onto the pillow.
My son licks it up, astonished, saying:
‘But this is a tear, father, not a poem!’
And I tell him:
‘When you grow up, my son,
and read the diwan of Arabic poetry
you’ll discover that the word and the tear are twins
and the Arabic poem
is no more than a tear wept by writing fingers.’
 
My son lays down his pens, his crayon box in
front of me
and asks me to draw a homeland for him.
The brush trembles in my hands
and I sink, weeping. 
 —
Source     Title images

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Published in: on 05/08/2012 at 7:05 pm  Comments (4)  
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