My Work - Poetry

Without a Nest at Eighty

(To my Father on his 80th birthday)

He who loves, ‘tis said, knows no real wretchedness,
And your heart overflows with love.
You have imbibed the wine
Of poetry and music,
Knocking with never-ceasing thrist
Upon the doors of knowledge.
Ask poetry
Who was he who beamed its rays
On to the spell-bound shores
To save the drowning?
Who was he who burned the sleepless candle,
Watching the far horizon
Until the break of dawn?
And who was he who cried “Where is the nest?
Is there a way to embrace the plumage of the nightingale
Fighting its path throught flash and thunderstom?”
And who was he who plucked
The poetry of Sanaa’s songs
To form a fragrant garland?
Ask music
Who created brides for music with his words
To charm a bird upon the wing?
Ask knowledge
Who was he who sixty years ago
Brought honour to his native land,
The first of graduates from the Arabian Peninsula?
The years between, as guide and mentor to all those
Who knowledge sought, both north and south,
Teaching and building minds to love and honour
Today, dear father,you have reached
Full four score years.
And in that time you’ve borne, courageously,
Man’s gross ingratitude to man.
And you’ve withheld complaint,
Unlike Zuhair *, who once bewailed his life.
Your metal’s made from purer ore,
E’en though he gained all dues
From those his fellow men,
Whilst your own nest was torn away from you.
Your life has been a lighthouse
From which such knowledge shone,
And many sons grew up beneath that beam,
Poets, doctors, men of science, more;
Your home a nest for intellectual thought -
And now? A playground for a pack of fools,
Your home, built from the years of scholarly toil.
Now traitors and unprincipled men
Roam that unhappy land,
Robbing, unchecked, your soil, devouring with wolves the sheep,
Yet pretending to help the shepherd when a shot is heard
Oh! How many an opportunist heading westwards
Was earlier to Gorbachev rushing towards the east.

* Zuhair Bin Abi Sulma was one of the seven great pre-Islamic poets of the Muallaqat (poems hung in the Kaba in Mecca)

Dubai, 1992