On Her Brother Sakhr


No day was sad as the day Sakhr
left me. Sweet and forever bitter.

Sakhr was our lord, our chief.
In the winter Sakhr made a feast

and led us when we rode.
Sakhr killed when we were hungry.

Sakhr was our guide
like a mountain whose top is fire.

Firm, perfect face, and pious,
he kindled wars on the morning of fear.

He bore flags, saved our blood, was
witness for assemblies, an army for armies,

sacrificer of camels, a refuge for the oppressed,
liberator of prisoners, mender of bones.

I say there was no one like him in the world.


             Arabic; trans. Willis Barnstone


Al-Khansa, Arabic, trans. Willis Barnstone, A Book of Women Poets, from Antiquity to Now, Willis Barnstone and Aliki Barnstone, eds., 1980, Schocken Books.