Elia Abu Madi

(1890-1957)

The Clay - Poem by Elia Abu Madi

At one time, Mr. Clay forgot that he was no more than mud
So, he walked insolently, bragged and boasted.
Body covered with fine silk,
He glorified himself in a self-admiring manner,
Purse full, he became haughty and rebellious!
Brother, turn not your face away from me;
I am not a charcoal, nor are you a bright star.
You did not make the silk you are wearing,
Nor the jewels with which you adorn yourself.
You cannot eat gold when hungry,
Nor drink strung pearls when thirsty.
In your fine attire, you suffer and rejoice,
Just like me in my tattered clothes.
You entertain hopes during the day,
Have dreams and visions at night.
My heart, too, has sweet dreams,
Just like yours, for it is not made of stone

Are all my wishes made of dust,
While yours fashioned of pure gold?
Or are all my wishes doomed to vanish
While yours are destined for immortality?
Nay! My wishes and yours, alike, come and go,
Like any others, for nothing is everlasting.
You, who so bent on exhibiting self-esteem,
When struck by disease, don't you complain and groan?
Don't you sigh and moan?
When your sweetheart forsakes you,
Don't you sorely miss her when remembering her?
Like me, you smile for favorable circumstances
And frown when visited by calamitous events.
Are my tears bitter like gall,
While yours are nectar-sweet?
Is my weeping a humiliation
While yours is victory?
Are my smiles waterless like a desert mirage,

While yours are shimmering jewels
One firmament spreads over both of us,
A scene that amazes and dazzles my sight,
While your eyes unmindful, lacking awareness of it.
One single moon gazes upon us,
As she gazes upon a shack and magnificent edifice.
If she seems bright to your eyes,
I do not see her dark from the crack of my shanty.
The same stars you see, I also behold,
When faint or gloriously ablaze.
With all your riches, you are no closer to them than me,
Nor am I any distant from them, despite my wretchedness
Like me, from dust you came, and to dust you shall return,
Why then so much pride and aloofness?
You were a child when I was a child,
You will grow old; I, too, will advance in age
And become toothless.
I neither know where I came from,
I possess no knowledge of my past
Nor do I know what the future holds for me.
If you do know, say it

Otherwise, why should you fancy yourself unique
You live in a stately palace, well-protected by armed guards
And fenced all-around with high walls,
Prevent, if you will, the night from spreading over it,
Stop the fog from thickly gathering above it.
Notice how the light enters freely
without ever asking for your permission!
So why should it be chased away?
One single resting place is your final lot,
Do you know how many lots and spots
Your decaying corpse will provide
For grazing worms and hungry maggots?
You have closed the doors of your palace in my face
When chased by storms and threatened by inclement weather,
Yet you made accommodations
And generously provided for your dogs and cats.
Thus, I heard life laughing at me for my begging
And mocking you for your miserly denial
You who have a charmingly beautiful garden,
With water, birds, flowers, and fragrant shrubs,
Rebuke then the wind for swaying, bending
And upsetting the trees in your garden.

And stop, if you can, the water in the pond,
Order it not to make swishing sounds
Unless in your presence, under your watchful eye.
When the bird sings on the tall tree,
It cares not, whether you or I
Listen to its melodies.
Flowers deride not my poverty,
Nor coax and flatter your riches.
Do you consider the river to be exclusively yours?


Poet's Notes about The Poem

translated by Mahmoud Abbas Masoud

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, September 5, 2013

Poem Edited: Thursday, September 5, 2013


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