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Word For Word

Perspective in poetry

By SCOTT BARANCIK, Times Staff Writer
Published March 9, 2006

If poetry is a window into the heart, American intelligence analysts should perform an EKG on the rhymes of Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. The sheik's city-state controls Dubai Ports World, the company at the center of a Washington clash over U.S. port security.

According to his Web site, sheikmohammed.com, the 57-year-old billionaire published his first poems under pseudonyms in local newspapers, and he writes in a centuries-old vernacular style called Nabati. He promotes the art form today by competing in poetry slams with fellow leaders and by posing a riddle every year, along with a substantial prize for the winner. Several years ago, thousands of writers from around the Arab world responded to the riddle, but none was judged fully correct. The right answer was "Dubai."

Sheik Mohammed writes mostly about kohl-eyed beauties who trample his heart. The father of 16 writes with equal passion, if less often, about the Palestinian cause.

"If poetry fails to express the nation's wishes, dreams, hopes and pains," he said in a 2003 Internet chat, "it has no value."

Below are two examples of his work, translated from the Arabic.

- SCOTT BARANCIK,

Times staff writer

Place me in your eyes

Place me in your eyes and close

Let me in your eyes live

I fear, though compelled, do not blink

Protect from falling your captive

And tears, though sad, do not shed

Lest I drown in the flood of eyelids

I lament time, passed blind

Alas, it slipped by with you far

The sword of your eyes, the blade shines

In your eyes, the charm of your charm

Dwelling in the heart, for you a pasture

Quaffing the tears of your lover

Which for the ample grass compensate

Browsing in an inside that protects you

Listen not to rumors or allusions

Nor to whoever blames

I keep for you promises so true

And for you intimacy abiding

All the world, for me throbs

I feel it desolate without you

Stand with justice (narrated by the youth of Palestine)

Pervaded the darkness and pervaded our aggressor

In the camp, faces of death without mercy

Death in our land, my brother, is routine

Like honey, though others taste it as colocynth

Worse than death to mortgage my country

To pawn Al Aqsa and Al Quds, to surrender

Worse than death to bequeath my children

Shame and disgrace that history would proclaim

Yes, I resist with my body, I forge my glories

Glory knows not the lover of dirhams

Glory knows naught but a free calling

For martyrdom, with faith enduring

Whoever seeks victory asleep on pillows

Tell him be sure to dream whilst sleeping

Victory through sacrifice, though flow valleys

If blood flows - no victory without blood

Your money and soul for your country sacrifice

Who does not sacrifice for his country must regret

Oh my people free, oh my people, oh my country

Stand with justice, never will justice be vanquished

[Last modified March 9, 2006, 09:23:23]


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