Nizar Qabbani, ‘Telephone’
in The Poetry of Nizar Qabbani, Volume One
(Beirut: Nizar Qabbani Publishing, 1981)
First published: 1961

Your voice, approaching from the clouds,
poured fire on the old wound,
laid a swing of tunes,
and threw me among the stars.
Who is calling me? You’re mistaken!
Leave me with my smoke and grief.
I am a wound with closed-eyelids,
so, why did you come and revive my remains?
My number—from where?
under the blowing winds in the dumb night.
It has been estranged and ignored,
under your papers, like an orphan child.
How—after five months—you come back
O, sweet voice.
Our love—was great, once,
and we folded the story of great love.
Are you saying, ‘I’m sorry’
after in hell, you tossed my love.
I can’t be fooled, my lady,
by the sweet words … and melodic voice
Your forbearing voice … I no more know
It was my paradise … my joy.
Lovely! Despite what I said,
I am—still—in my old love.
Tease my number every night,
and sing like the sparrows of vines .
A word from you—even a lie
Has built a house for me,
on the stars.

translated by Hajar Mahfoodh

‘Telephone’ was first published in My Love (1961) by the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani (1923-1998). The poet receives a phone-call from his beloved, whose voice awakens a stream of love and grief. Despite their previous break-up, Nizar’s feelings are rejuvenated by the phone call, and he decides to return to his former lover. He asks his beloved to tease him every night with a phone call because her voice will incite his passion. In this sense, the telephone stands as a means of communication that has the potential to mend broken relationships, conveying the lovers’ passion through their whispers.

by Hajar Mahfoodh