Regarded as one of the greatest and most original writers of modern Arabic literature, the Syrian writer, playwright and poet Muhammad al-Maghut (1934-2006) was a pioneer of Arabic free verse. His literary output, often laced with dark humour and satire, was an indictment of the failings of the Arab world, especially with regard to freedom and social justice. He also wrote for theatre, TV and cinema.
Oh, the dream! The dream!
My strong, gilded wagon
its wheels have scattered like gypsies.
One night I dreamt of spring
and when I awoke
flowers covered my pillow.
I dreamt once of the sea.
In the morning my bed was rich
with shells and fins.
But when I dreamt of freedom
spears surrounded my neck
with morning's halo.
From now on you will not find me
at ports or among trains
but in public libraries
sleeping head down on the maps of the world
as the orphan sleeps on pavement
where my lips will touch more than one river
and my tears stream from continent
Translated by May Jayyusi and Naomi Shihab Nye
*Third World Resurgence No. 307/308, March/April 2016, p 68