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"The Wound" Songs of Mihyar the Damascene By Adonis

Updated: Feb 1

The Wound
The Wound


The leaves sleeping beneath the wind:

A vessel for the wound.

Time perishing: the glory of the wound.

The trees rising among our lashes:

A lake for the wound.

The wound lies in bridges

When the grave lengthens,

When patience stretches

Between the banks of our love and death.

The wound, a gesture, is passing.


I give the voice of the wound

To the tongue of strangled bells,

To stone approaching from afar,

To aridity and the arid land,

To time borne on a stretcher of ice,

I kindle the fire of the wound.

When history burns in my garments,

When blue nails sprout in my book,

When I shout during the day,

Who are you? Who’s thrusting you

Into my notebooks,

Into my virgin earth?

In my notebooks, in my virgin earth,

I glimpse two eyes of dust

And hear someone say,

“I am the wound that grows

In your narrow history.”


I named you cloud,

Wound, dove of departure,

I named you quill and book.

And here I am, starting a dialogue

Between myself and the drowned tongue

On the isles of exodus,

On the archipelago of the ancient fall.

And here I am, teaching the dialogue

To the wind and palms—

Wound, dove of departure.


Had I a harbor, had I a vessel

In the land of dreams and mirrors,

Had I the remains

Of a city, had I a city

In the land of children and weeping,

I would forge them all for the wound

Into a spear-like song

That pierces trees and stones and sky,

A song as supple as water,

Unruly and dazed, like conquest.


World adorned with dreams and yearning,

Rain down on our deserts,

Rain down, but shake us, palms of the wound,

And break two branches off for us

From the trees that love the silence of the wound,

From the trees with arched lashes and hands

That keep vigil over the wound.

World adorned with dreams and yearning,

World falling in my brow,

Drawn like the wound,

Come no closer—the wound is closer than you.

Don’t tempt me—the wound is more beautiful,

And the wound has passed by that enchantment

Cast by your eyes

In the last kingdoms,

Passed without leaving a sail to tempt it astray,

Without leaving it an island.


Adunis shared, “I wanted to draw on Arab tradition and mythology without being tied to it,” in a 2010 dialog with Charles McGrath for the New York Times, further sharing, “I wanted to break the linearity of poetic text — to mess with it, if you will. The poem is meant to be a network rather than a single rope of thought. Adonis explores with lyric poetry, different meters, and prose poetry while tackling issues of exile and transition in Arabic poetry, departing from the tradition of formal structure. His voice is both amusing and visionary.

In the year 1930, Ali Ahmed Said Esber was born in the Syrian town of Al-Qassabin. The sixth child and oldest born to a farming family, When the Syrian president visited a nearby village at the age of fourteen, Adunis performed a poem for him, and the president then offered to satisfy the boy's wish to attend school. Adunis studied in a French high school with the president's assistance and afterwards attended Damascus University where he received a BA in philosophy.

He started writing as Adunis in his late teens, taking the name from the Greek fertility deity. Adunis traveled to Beirut after serving a year in prison for his political involvement, where he discovered a vibrant community of expat authors and artists. He cofounded and published progressive literary journals, Sh’ir and Mawaqif, and earned a PhD at St. Joseph University.


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