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June 2017 Issue [Readings]

Nothing Has Taken Me

By Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali bin Hisn (eleventh century). The poem was translated from the Arabic by Peter Cole and appears in Hymns & Qualms, a selection of his poems and translations that was published in May by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Cole is the author of four previous volumes of poetry.

Nothing has taken me
         more by surprise —
                            that dove, cooing
                                     on a branch between
                                     the islet and river,
                             its collar pistachio
           green, its breast
lapis, its neck
ashimmer, its back
         and the tips of its wings
                  maroon. Its ruby
                             eyes had flitting
                             lids of pearl
                  above, flecked
          and bordered with gold.
Its beak was black
at the point alone,
          a reed’s tip
                     dipped in ink.
                               The bough was its throne.
                                It hid its throat
                      in the fold of a wing —
          resting. Moaning,
I startled it. And seeing me
weeping, it spread
           its wings, then beat them —
                    and as it flew
                              it took my heart
                              away. It’s gone. . . .

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June 2017

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