Nizar Qabbani

(1923 - 1998 / Damascus / Syria)

A Lesson In Drawing - Poem by Nizar Qabbani

My son places his paint box in front of me
and asks me to draw a bird for him.
Into the color gray I dip the brush
and draw a square with locks and bars.
Astonishment fills his eyes:
'… But this is a prison, Father,
Don't you know, how to draw a bird?'
And I tell him: 'Son, forgive me.
I've forgotten the shapes of birds.'

My son puts the drawing book in front of me
and asks me to draw a wheatstalk.
I hold the pen
and draw a gun.
My son mocks my ignorance,
demanding,
'Don't you know, Father, the difference between a
wheatstalk and a gun?'
I tell him, 'Son,
once I used to know the shapes of wheatstalks
the shape of the loaf
the shape of the rose
But in this hardened time
the trees of the forest have joined
the militia men
and the rose wears dull fatigues
In this time of armed wheatstalks
armed birds
armed culture
and armed religion
you can't buy a loaf
without finding a gun inside
you can't pluck a rose in the field
without its raising its thorns in your face
you can't buy a book
that doesn't explode between your fingers.'

My son sits at the edge of my bed
and asks me to recite a poem,
A tear falls from my eyes onto the pillow.
My son licks it up, astonished, saying:
'But this is a tear, father, not a poem!'
And I tell him:
'When you grow up, my son,
and read the diwan of Arabic poetry
you'll discover that the word and the tear are twins
and the Arabic poem
is no more than a tear wept by writing fingers.'

My son lays down his pens, his crayon box in
front of me
and asks me to draw a homeland for him.
The brush trembles in my hands
and I sink, weeping.


Comments about A Lesson In Drawing by Nizar Qabbani

  • Sona Wilae (11/20/2017 12:04:00 AM)


    Amazing metaphors to breathe passionately! (Report) Reply

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  • Bharati Nayak (11/19/2017 10:18:00 PM)


    A Lesson In Drawing by Nizar Qabbani | Delete this message

    When you grow up, my son,
    and read the diwan of Arabic poetry
    you'll discover that the word and the tear are twins
    and the Arabic poem
    is no more than a tear wept by writing fingers.'
    - - - - - -When all the beautiful sentiments are vanishing, when pen is giving way to gun, there is no homeland for writers who really care and weep for the loss of humanity.A wonderful poem, thanks for sharing.
    (Report) Reply

  • (11/19/2017 1:49:00 PM)


    To draw like this poet is a gift. (Report) Reply

  • Rae Seagull (11/19/2017 12:28:00 PM)


    Powerful and sentimental at the same time. Thank you for sharing (Report) Reply

  • Subhas Chandra Chakra (11/19/2017 10:23:00 AM)


    The brush trembles in my hands
    and I sink, weeping.
    A very powerful and sensitive poem shared.
    10++++ for the sharing.
    It's a message written with trembling hearts too.
    It deserves being selected.
    Thanks and Congrats Nizar for it.
    Regards.
    Subhas
    (Report) Reply

  • Lea- Beima Dorestin (11/19/2017 5:04:00 AM)


    Awww this is so sentimental and reflective
    Great diction! !
    (Report) Reply

  • Geeta Radhakrishna Menon (11/19/2017 4:37:00 AM)


    A wonderful dialogue between the father and son so beautifully portrayed in this poem.
    So much of learning, philosophy of life!
    I loved the poem.
    Heartiest congratulations Nizar. Truly deserving!
    A full vote
    (Report) Reply

  • Bernard F. Asuncion (11/19/2017 3:46:00 AM)


    Such a great write by Nizar Qabbani..., (Report) Reply

  • (11/19/2017 2:08:00 AM)


    Reflection of a fragmented world. Shameless assault on humanity Succinctly captured in the poem with its painful denouement. Thanks a lot, Dear Poet. (Report) Reply

  • Edward Kofi Louis (11/19/2017 1:43:00 AM)


    Armed religion! ! With the muse of mankind on earth. Thanks for sharing this poem with us. (Report) Reply

  • (11/19/2017 1:20:00 AM)


    A picture of today's world depicted here truly but with great imagery and emotion.......thanks for sharing (Report) Reply

  • Robert Murray Smith (11/19/2017 12:45:00 AM)


    A poem of sensitivity. (Report) Reply

  • Kyvin Nash (7/27/2017 12:26:00 PM)


    I'm out of words, things were beautiful and real back then but now we can't tell the differences, we can tell right from wrong, everything is mixed, good with evil, light with darkness. Truth with error, well said Sir (Report) Reply

  • Dutendra Chamling (10/21/2015 9:54:00 PM)


    Marvellous poem, Nizar Qabbani drew a door to freedom. (Report) Reply

  • Elizabeth Padillo Olesen (3/17/2015 3:56:00 AM)


    I want to weep too upon reading this poem: so powerful, so true and human in human desperation about what is happening in our world and in your own homeland, Nizar. I join with your pain and despair and yet this poem brings home a message to all the children in the world: Poetry has a voice. Poetry is also an instrument of peace in the midst of chaos, unmeasureable suffering of people caused by wars, corruption and hate. Smile and share your life and hope. (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Monday, March 22, 2010



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