If You Are Passing Through Rome
(Translated from the Arabic by Sinan Antoon)
Since you will not strike roots in the earth and will not lean like a willow to a brook, what use are these glances you cast. At times fierce, blank at others, but imploring in the end. You will only catch what appeared by mistake; the hand under the table, or a face that looked back unintentionally. It is not with a glance alone, no matter how long, concentrated, or even Medusean, that you, who are passing through Rome, can change the ways of Romans. This is not a cardboard décor that will crumble under your sweeping glance. Touch it with your hand to believe that reasons gather at times in an idiotic laugh, or a shirt with figures. You have no knowledge as to why that woman, who is passing by like a long gasp, is holding on to that man who appears so unattractive to you. Or how that bulky man leans on the woman who could fly away with a breeze. It is not with the glance alone, no matter how trained, piercing, and intense, that you could stir the sugar spoon in her coffee. For you, alone, believe that lowering an eyelash, or a knight bending down, can barter a life of flesh and blood. So, when your glances return crestfallen, do not say that it is money, fame, or even luck. The one passing through does not leave a tattoo on an arm, or a scar on a chest. But remember that reasons have gathered themselves for you in another Rome with one word. You do not know how it was revealed to you, nor how you uttered it, because the glances cast upon the one who fell in your arms with a full load of her lavender have gone astray.