Beautiful Illusion (translated Arabic poem)

Trying to keep the rhyme, I’ve attempted to translate my Arabic poem (below) as closely to the original as possible. It wasn’t easy, but translating poetry is one of most enjoyable challenging tasks I can take on as both a translator and writer.

Beautiful Illusion

Oh beautiful illusion

I’ve raised my white flag 

I’ve surrendered

To the man I’ve shared love with

So sweet and tender

But why does he enjoy my confusion

Is love to him merely vengeance?

I draw nearer, he grows distant 

So I resort to a fast of silence

And conceal my pain within

I’ve taken birds and clouds as friends

Who’ve kept my secrets as treasures

When the sky cried in showers

Suddenly my thirst was quenched

And my soul regained its powers

Oh sorrowed sky, I suffer from this illness

I gave him my all, he gave me negligence

What we have stood the test of time

I was his, and he was surely mine

Was it too much to ask the skies above

To grant me an everlasting love?

Oh, beautiful illusion, just let me be

Let me fill this life with dreams

Let it bestow upon me its illusions

Leave me to my blindness and delusion

Would there be anything but darkness

Should my vision be restored?

Would there be anything but ugliness

That I wasn’t aware of before?

Oh, beautiful illusion, just let me

Grant me eternal peace

أيها الوهم الجميل

أيها الوهم الجميل المعاني
قد رفعتُ راية الإستسلام
وأخفضت جناحي لمن أسقاني
وأسقيته يوماً عذب الغرام
فاستعذبَ حيرتي وهواني
هل الحُّب عند من أهوى إنتقام؟
كلما دنوت منه جافاني
فلذت بالصوم عن الكلام
وكتمت آلاماً في جَناني
وبحت بسرّي للطير والغمام
فأمطر غيثاً حتى رواني
وأحيا فيّ ما أفناه الأوام
أيا حزنَ السماء إني أعاني
وأحمل في ثنايا روحي الأسقام
كيف لمن أسلمته كُلّي وكياني
أن ينسى ما أشهدنا عليه الأيام؟
لا ليس يوماً ولا عاماً من الزمان
ما بيننا رحمةٌ وموّدةٌ وإحترام
أضرّ الزمان أنّ الحُبَّ شجاني
أم دوام الحبِّ عند مِثلي حرام؟
أيها الوهمُ الجميل دعني وشاني
سأهبُ الحياة حُلماً ولْتهبْني أوهام
دعني في جهلي وعُمياني
أسأرى إن أبصرتُ إلا الظلام؟
دعني فقُبح وعيي أشقاني
أيها الوهم الجميلُ امنحني السلام


Inside, Outside

Inside there’s quietude 

An uninterrupted hush

Outside, there’s a bustle

Everyone’s in a rush

Deafening car horns, chaos

Construction cranes, drills

Inside, thoughts on mute

 A numbness and a chill

Overwhelm my senses

Eyes gazing into open space

And a sudden warm blanket

Spreads across my face

Tears, pouring without sound

Slipping through my fingers

Splatter on the ground

Outside, the chaos resumes

People walk by indifferently 

No one looks up to my window

I watch but they don’t watch me

Only the sky joins in my sorrow

The clouds gather like sheep

Summoned by the shepherd

Then they begin to weep

I thank the sky for its sympathy

Nature is far kinder than Man

Inside, life ceases for moments

Everything turns pitch black

Outside, life moves forward

Like a train on an endless track

Outside, umbrellas and puddles 

Little children chased by rain

Inside, a dull uninvited headache

Hammers at my brain

For the first time ever 

The rain can’t make me smile

This untimely change of weather

Mimics the fickleness inside

Outside, the first rainfall

Inside, the last chapter ends

Outside, a new season

Nature is a mistress of pretense

Inside, we’re still very broken

But move on like we’re just bent

Final Lights 

When all is quiet except for

The sound of your sadness

Listen closely and you’ll hear

My voice across the distance

You may not see me now

But you’ll learn to believe

In the beauty of things

We could feel but never see

The way I felt you, and you me


Anywhere you go

There you will find me

All the love you gave

Was never lost inside me

Think of me as 

The final lights guide me

My words will be trails

That I’ve left behind me

If you’re ever lost

They’ll take you home

You’ll never have to walk

This path alone

Read me in a scripture

Cry me in a prayer

Hold me in a poem

When I’m no longer there

I’ll be in every line

Of every story; written or told

I’ll be the best-kept secret

This galaxy will ever hold

Think of me 

As the final lights guide me 

To paradise

Where I’ll be waiting 

Till the end of Time


Remember what Rumi says: Goodbyes 

Are for those who love only with their eyes

But we’ve loved with a love

That can never be torn apart

And we’ve learned to fight

Till the last beat in our heart

Remember, my love

I’ll be waiting amongst the stars

The poetry book

Some nights ago, I had a strange dream. I dreamt that I was gifted a poetry book written by a famous Iraqi poet called Badr Shaker Al-Sayyab (1926-1964). The man was a prodigy of poetry, who died ill and poor at the age of 38.

I hadn’t read much about him before until I had that dream. The first page of the book read “this is by far one of the most beautiful poetry collections ever written” and the first page was hand painted, as though someone had had this book before me. Of course, such a wonderful dream inspired me to write a poem myself in honor of Al-Sayyab, whose poetry indeed is one of the most beautiful contemporary Arabic poetry ever written. I particularly like his “Rain Song” being a pluviophile and all. The world of dreams is a vast and mystical place indeed. It was not the first time I dream of bookstores and books. Now why I dreamt of Al-Sayyab out of the blue, I would never know but I certainly consider such dreams as good omens.

The poem I had written was in Arabic as well but I attempted to translate the poem and share it with you as I know most of my followers are non-Arabic speakers.

Do you have a famous poet in your country whose poetry transcends time? Do share their work in the comments below.

A dream and a book


I dreamt of a book

For the poet Badr Shaker Al-Sayyab

It had a few words written on the cover

It wasn’t long before I realized the dream 

Was merely an answer to a prayer

On the first page there were marks

That were left by those 

who had read the book before me

“This is one of the most beautiful poetry collections ever written”; it read

An awkward smile was drawn upon my face

I had only read little about Al-Sayyab’s works before

But I’d never owned a book

Perhaps this dream brings glad tidings

Perhaps it means my inspiration has finally returned

A dream is merely a message, and those who can dechipher dreams

Understand that dreams aren’t illusions or mirages

Many a time do we meet people in dreams

Many a time does the impossible become possible

In dreams we experience love and perfection

Beauty is dressed with the finest clothes

In dreams we experience another life

That is very different from this one 

With its toils and torment

Where the soul is free

And phantoms embrace one another

Without much blame 

How fortunate would I be 

To find an answer to my trouble

A key to my happiness inside a book

Originally written in Arabic:
حلم وكتاب


جاءني في المنام طيف كتاب

للشاعر بدر شاكر السياب

على غلافه خُطّت بضع كلمات

فعلمت أن الحُلم لسؤلي جواب

في الصفحة الأولى رسومٌ ومعالمٌ 

تدل على من قرأوا قبلي الكتاب

“هذا الديوان من أجمل ما يُقرأ”

فاعتلت وجهي ابتسامة استغراب

قد قرأت للسياب قبل هذا

إنما فاتني أن أقتني له كتاب

ولعلّ الحلم يحمل البشرى والسرور

ولعله عودةُ الوحي بعد طول غياب

إنما الحلم رسالةٌ ومن يفقه الرموز

يعلم أن الرؤى ليست وهماً ولا سراب

وكم في الحلم كانت لنا لقاءات

وكم شُرعت للمستحيلات الأبواب

وكم عايشنا الحب والكمال

وأطلّ الجمال فيه بأبهى الثياب 

في الحلم حياةٌ أخرى لمن عانى

شظف العيش وتصلف الأحباب

وفيه تتجسد الروح بلا قيود

وتتعانق الأطياف بلا عتاب

يا لهنائي إن وجدت دواء علتي

 وسرّ سعادتي بين طيات كتاب

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341 reasons why…these are not words

These are not words

These are drops of sunshine on my ever-darkened days

These are not words

These are the teardrops I would hide if I could

These are not words

These are the lessons I carried through the years

These are not words

These are the offspring of my dreams

These are the friends that never hurt or turn their backs on you

These are not words

These are prayers I send on paper airplanes to the sky

The signs I receive 

These are not words 

These are 341 reasons why I swing between doubt and belief

These are not words

They are the invisible battles I fight on my own

The white flags I hold up when I lose them all

These are not words

They’re a mirror reflection of my soul

One day she looks beautiful

One day she looks like she just came back from the grave

These are not words

They are an insomniac’s much-needed sleep 

A daydreamer’s chance to break away

These are not words,

These are 341 reasons why I wake up to face another day

These are not words

They’re the feelings I gladly confess

But are often misunderstood

These are not words

These are 341 reasons why I can’t keep my mouth shut when I should

These are not words

They are the anger that’s been bottled up for three decades in my chest

These are not words

These are the problems no one helped me solve, I solved alone

The pep talk no one gave me before a match or a test, but I still won

The love that only exists in my imagination, long begone

Where monsters lie discreetly waiting for the right moment to attack

These are not words

These are 341 reasons why I can’t have some moments back

These are not words

These are the cries for help no one read or heard

These are not words

These are the cuts you don’t see on my skin

These are not words

These are 341 reasons why I’m still alive


He thought he could tame her

And blame her

For his whims

He thought he could rule her

And fool her

What a sin

It is to believe a woman is inferior

To man

To underestimate her 

To underrate her

Tell her she can’t when she can

He thought he could break her

And make her

Fall to her knees 

But she’s indestructible

Her strength’s unfathomable

She won’t admit defeat

She has purpose

She has soul

A light that makes 

Her whole

A God-fearing woman

Can’t be terrorized

Deceived or marginalized 

A man has power

But not enough

To make her doubt

The power of her love

She shall overcome

She’s indestructible

There is no war 

Between man and woman

Both equally loved

Equally forgiven

And it’s a shame 

To see injustice made

In God’s name

But a God-fearing man

Won’t accept the oppression

Of neither a nation nor woman

Yet God-fearing men are very few

And real men are a rarity, it’s true

Forgetfulness Pill

All these medical breakthroughs

And scientific progress

Space explorations; inventions

Mankind is yet to witness;

There are some questions

With no replies

And secrets that we 

won’t even try

To uncover, just accept

As secrets that must be kept

But why, I do not understand

Has it been impossible for Man

Who has cured many cancers

And found most of the answers

To a universe that was once a mystery

Why has he failed to find

A remedy for tormented minds?

the over-thinkers and lovesick

In dire need of a quick fix

A Forgetfulness pill, to end this misery

For all the memories 

Left untouched 

All the wounds

That hurt too much

All the happiness 

that can’t be lived

All the love we 

can’t receive or give

All the illusions

We’d have rather believed

Than become the victims

Broken and deceived

A forgetfulness pill

That would eradicate

Not numb the pain

That would emancipate

Us from impossibilities 

From guilt and remorse

Spreading like infections

But “the illness must

Run its course”

The doctors say

And sadly, there’s no

Other way

But endure and survive

And be thankful

That we’re still alive

Note: this poem was originally a translation of a poem I’d written in Arabic, a rather unfaithful translation as we all know, poetry gets lost in translation. For those who know Arabic, you will find it below 

حبة النسيان


اخترع الإنسان

عقاقيراً لأخطر الأوبئة 

وقريباً يصبح السرطان

من كل نوعٍ وهيئة  

في خبر كان

ولكنه ما زال عاجزاً

حتى هذا الزمان

عن مداواة آلام الروح

فمتى يخترع الإنسان

عقاراً يعين على النسيان؟

Rule Breakers

Rule breakers don’t always have tatoos

But they always challenge stigmas and taboos

Rule breakers are imaginative and profound

They have too much attitude to be bossed around

Rule breakers are tough, resilient creatures

Though they may have the softest voices and features

Rule breakers know they can change the world

One unjust rule at a time

Rule breakers aren’t afraid of speaking their minds

Fighting for justice is their only crime

Rule breakers don’t just break rules

To sound rebellious or look cool

Rule breakers swim against the tide

And wear their scars with pride

Rule breakers rise above stereotypes

Don’t make much noise or create hypes

Rule breakers don’t break laws or disrespect beliefs

To show the world what they can achieve

To be a rule breaker all you have to do

Is show kindness when no one expects you to

Passion must run deep within your soul

And the good of mankind must be your ultimate goal


Let bygones be bygone

It’s time to relax and unwind

And leave your worries behind

Let bygones be bygone

And start anew

Allow this hurtful past 

To let go of you

Stop clinging to memories

And holding on to illusions

You need a new beginning

And some new resolutions

Let bygones be bygone

It’s just no use

Your fate has been decided

Is not up to you to choose

Let bygones be bygone

So tell me, why worry

Why overthink?

Let bygones be bygone

Just cut the link

And be free

Hanging by a thread

There used to be love 

And understanding

But life’s become 

So tough and demanding

We no longer give those we love

The benefit of the doubt

They hurt us once 

And they become

So easy to live without

I see families torn apart

And ask: for what?

Isn’t family supposed to

Be all you’ve got?

Even friendships have

Turned into rivalries instead

When there’s no love 

We’re just hanging by a thread

No, this life hasn’t failed us

We’ve failed ourselves

Our feelings are collecting dust

Like china on our shelves

Nothing is worth giving

If nothing’s returned

Trust isn’t granted

It’s only earned

There was once a home

For our heart and head

Now there’s no love

We’re just hanging by a thread

The pains we bear are too heavy

They bend our backs

Too many baggages to carry

No one helps us unpack

And if someone ever asks

“Hey, what’s on your mind?”

You hesitate to answer

“nothing, I’m just fine…”

But that’s not what you meant

Nor could have easily said

But when there’s no love

You’re just hanging by a thread

Things will change, I know

If we let go of our ego

When faith becomes our driving force

When love conquers hate

Everything falls back into place

And life returns to its natural course