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fragment 1

Gallas, John Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

Eight Possible Fragments of Wasit Huraira’h

(fl. c. AH 700–710) translated by John Gallas

The only record of the life and work of Wasit Huraira’h (literally

‘Middling Father of the Little Pussycat’) is found in Abu Afiyat’s ‘Travels

With an Umbrella’ (c. AH 890) as quoted in Dud of Kufah’s ‘Places I’d

Like to Go Before I Can’t Ride a Donkey Anymore’ (AH 971 in the MS collection of the University of Diyarbakir no. MIM971/DK473011796).

The reference runs (as translated by Semele Gorjean in ‘The Spiritual

Geography of the Suburbs of Mutayabah’ (AD 1899) p.1124):

… where Wasit Huraira’h dwelt within a tree, possessing merely a toilet and a mirror, and a kitten snuggl’d in his arms, the writer of ‘Pomegranate

Pie’ …

When a fragmentary Arabic MS of 1541(AD) containing a sub-collection entitled ‘Pomegranate Stew’ appeared amongst the estate of an unnamed

Khafachah prince in 1991(AD), it was assumed, from its (translated Arabic) title, to be a late copy of all or some of the work of Wasit Huraira’h.

This MS is now in private hands in New Guinea, and is here translated into English for the first time.

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Arrival and Preparation

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

And all its thrill and drive,

Its landscape and its pace.

This music would preserve

Our best loves. They would thrive

And form a gracious dance,

Both keep our loves alive

And praise their circumstance.

Maybe no music can

Contain so deep a part

Of how we wish to live.

Both woman, child and man

Cry for the broken heart

To find a sound to give

A purpose to the hurt

We suffer and we cause.

Sometimes I hear the strings

Combine with flutes to sound

What is the best in us.

Listen, a music sings,

It’s gone as soon as found,

Yet there’s a universe

Which Bach and Mozart knew,

Beethoven sometimes and

Dowland often. There’s

A starlight brilliance too

We but half-understand

Yet recognise as true –

The music of the spheres.

Arrival and Preparation


It seems to be very near

This music that’s been so elusive but so quick

To offer a phrase and move into difficult silence,

Hard for me I mean.

I have let one phrase enter and disappear,

Kept only words in my mind,

But now the melody’s on me at last, the clear

Psalm you don’t seek but find.

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Elegy, January 1958 (WUL, 9)

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

The conflict, yet each fears to move.

Watching, unknowing you might think

The struggle was a truce of love.

Far off the total battles wage:

Only these two like beasts before

The final power stay still and wait

The proper opening of their war.

Stillness indeed. And if they could

Stay thus a little longer they

Might break the meaning of their mood

And pause to pity not to slay.

Closer than death’s last shaken word

Two men who guess each other’s pride

Might set their single arms aside

And sheathe their shadows like a sword.


If we learn to read poetry properly, the poet never persuades us to believe anything …

What we learn from Dante, and the Bhagavad Gita, or any other religious poetry is what it feels like to believe that religion.

T.S. Eliot

Washing, washing against the wall

We picked a pebble up there once

Communicated with the stones,

Regarded every thin wave’s fall

And O the wasting of the planet’s edge

Rubbed by the waters and the moon’s

Calm but abrasive privilege.

So many conversations pause

At the sea’s edge. Words halt because the tide

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Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF
Medium 9781847770684

Heat Wave: Melons, c.1963–66 (UD, 186/1/29)

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

A world where silence has no hold

Except a tentative small grip

Limp hands upon the pillows fold

Minds from their bodies slowly slip.

Though death is never spoken here

It is more palpable and felt –

Touching the cheek or in a tear –

By being present by default.

The muffled cries, the curtains drawn,

The flowers pale before they fall –

The world itself is here brought down

To what is suffering and small.

The huge philosophies depart,

Large words slink off, like faith, like love

The thumping of the human heart

Is reassurance here enough.

Only one dreamer going back

To how he was when he was well

Weeps under pillows at his lack

But cannot tell, but cannot tell.

Heat Wave: Melons

They are eating melons in the late evening

O hot sugar and easy sliding knife!

The melons reflect the moon.

We throw off our bed-clothes,

Someone is thirsty and reaches for water.

The sea is too far away with too few boats.

We throw off the sheets.

I walk to the window and wait for the day to arrive.

And love is urgent even in this hot climate.

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