Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic p864

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Contributor: LynleyShimat Lys

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Enter the hazards of the Wehr
where the English never quite
unfolds from the original German.

qabj – a kind of partridge, and
qawun – muskmelon, canteloupe.
I'm sorry if the rest of your neighbors
on this page get a little
unwieldy. Protect yourself
with a qawuq – a kind of high
headgear made of felt
Or a qayis - broad leather
strap, belt, girth, strop - enough
synonyms and you can almost
guess the word in German.

Partridges can always hide in a qubba –
cupola, memorial shrine,
not in qubbat al-islam,
the city of Basra,
but in qubbat as-sakra,
the Dome of the Rock, or in
qubbat milhiya, a salt dome,
whatever that may be.

Canteloupe, straighten your qabba – collar
and just pretend
that the verb qabba
means only to straighten up,
to ascend
(and not also to chop off, cut off).
Have some qubbar – capers.

Because now we get on to
qabaha – ugliness, and
qubha lahu – shame on him,
who brought them into
your partridge and canteloupe world.
Just qabuha – to be ugly,
or, in the second stem,
qabbuha – to make ugly, your
fruit and bird lives.
Or even, in the tenth stem,
because we don't see the full thirteen,
istaqbuha, you will
find something ugly in your way.

Perhaps you can qubara – bury,
inter, entomb the ugliness in a far away qabr –
sepulcher, in a forgotten
maqbar – burying place, graveyard..
And return to your partridge
and canteloupe past times.

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LS Lys has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a BA in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Poems and other works are published in Verse Wisconsin, Flashquake, and Mayim Rabim.


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