The Book of Games

by qisasukhra

A selection of poems on motherhood and love from Rana Al Tonsi’s beautiful collection كتاب الألعاب (Dar Al Sharqiyat, 2015) [The Book of Games]. This is Rana’s eighth collection, a list of which appear at the end of this article. Her first was published in 2001, and a selection from her earlier works were collected together in عندما لا أكون في الهواء (Manshourat Al Jamal, 2014) [When I’m Not in the Air]. Sinan Antoon’s  translations of poems from her 2003 collection وردة للأيام الأخيرة (Merit) [A Rose for the Last Days] appeared in Banipal, here.

b

In every city is a wall that opens,

a feeble light,

two lovers

who chose to tread the wrong path.

b

***

b

You grow up and open the chest,

find yourself standing before a sea,

a great canvas of blue sky,

and beachgoers who’ve decided

not to come down to the water.

The shore’s given up on them.

Mama’s heart awaits you, my darling.

b

***

b

Why do small children flock to me?

Fleeing from school,

sleepy from their mothers’ breasts,

why do they look at me with a tenderness

that compels me to stay?

b

***

b

I don’t know what happened:

The hearts Miss asked us to draw,

I don’t know what happened to them,

made them so now they spy on us.

b

***

b

Lost Angel,

you search for food or shelter,

and in your perpetual fall,

a memory of grace.

b

***

b

When I gave birth to you there was no sea to take my hand, there was

someone to hold me to account:

Why have you filled the house with colour?

I was thinking of fleeing

and didn’t.

You were holding my hand,

looking into my eyes.

b

When I gave birth to you

the moment was no miracle:

I was degraded,

broken,

sunk in pain.

b

The strangers were haunting my bones

and I loved you,

the love of a woman saved from death,

waking that she might love.

b

Each day like the first day.

b

When I met you

I felt that I could,

that I really could stand up now,

could open the door

and wake.

b

***

b

You and I: we want to stand there

the sands sweeping our feet away,

breaths snatched by the flowers.

b

You and I, we are perpetually in torment

and want nobody to save us:

A long love song

on loneliness.

b

***

b

One day I’ll

wake within a little chamber in

your heart and we shall talk

as though

friends.

b

***

b

Maybe you won’t believe it but

The few times I’ve pictured you tenderly approaching

I’ve felt panicked

as though the dangerous things

are better left on hold forever.

What to do with you

when you drop into my arms

like hope?

b

***

b

I shall stand behind you,

talk you a river no sooner gone than begun again;

I shall stand beside you,

a rose trying to hide its thorns each time I shake your hand;

I shall stand right with you

and we shall not feel that we’re alone.

b

***

b

When I first began to run

my mother stopped me to slip on socks,

my friend to put me into shoes,

and someone else tried hastily to dress me.

When I first ran

I knew I never would arrive.

b

***

b

You are the lifeboat to take me safe to the other side

when there is none there.

b

***

b

Life is a shop that does not open its doors to the lonely.

We are the ones who weep in dreams

and no one wakes us.

The destitute stand before You, Lord:

Let them not suffer.

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