Nothing Has Taken Me, by Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali bin Hisn

Sign in to access Harper’s Magazine

Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?

  1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
  2. Select Email/Password Information.
  3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.

Locked out of your account? Get help here.

Subscribers can find additional help here.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!

Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
Subscribe for Full Access
Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.

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. . . .

More from