Munājayāt al-Sab'īn (Orisons of the Seventies): 'Azīz al-Sayyid Jāsim's Latest Prose Poems
This short introductory essay focuses on the biographical and critical value of these short monologues or orisons that were printed posthumously in Arabic in 1994. The output of their author, ‘Azīz al- Sayyid Jāsim, is enormous, especially in matters of ideology and literature; but his poetic excursions are few, and he never claimed them as significantly central to his literary and cultural itinerary. Yet, as their publisher and editor in Arabic notices, these pieces offer new insights, not only in the record of an influential author, but also in his Sufi career, which led to his seclusion and eventual execution despite his disinterest in any political involvement. .The orisons have their depth, intimacy, and poetic power that integrate them in the scant poetic tradition of the Sufis.
In one of the most memorable issues (13 September 1994) of the Beirut weekly Istijwāb (interrogation or interlocution), there appeared a collection of prose poems by the late Iraqi intellectual and thinker ‘Azīz al- Sayyid Jāsim, introduced by the late Lebanese artist and novelist Fārūq al-Buqaylī (d. 2001). A few important observations can be discerned from the Arabic prologue to these poems. First, the editor Fārūq al-Buqaylī was obviously very proud of his friendship with ‘Azīz al- Sayyid Jāsim and had great respect for his intellectual and literary capabilities. In the introduction to a series of interviews with him, the editor explains how he greatly admires ‘Azīz’s “encyclopedic knowledge, rigorous analysis, and combination of theory and practice in his intellectual interventions…” Al- Sayyid Jāsim published over forty books on various subjects keeping his focus on “man” throughout his career. Second, in spite of his prominent and distinguished status as a thinker and a visionary, al-Sayyid Jāsim’s modesty as a poet was overwhelmingly humbling. We know that ‘Azīz disliked public relations, conferences, and official meetings. His critique of opportunism, bureaucracy, sham politics, and hypocrisy was also the reason behind the counter views from among party opportunists, and infantile leftists. His attitude made others suspicious of and sensitive to his criticism. Third, ‘Azīz al- Sayyid Jāsim’s disappearance, although tragic, was hardly surprising in a world that killed and silenced its most sincere and gifted intellectuals because their political views simply disagreed with those of the oppressive, ruling regime.
Al-Buqaylī also mentioned that he had met with ‘Azīz al- Sayyid Jāsim one last time in Baghdad in 1985 during which he conducted a lengthy and informative interview with him about the current status of the Arab intellectual. Despite his demoralized psychological state and the deteriorating condition of his health, al- Sayyid Jāsim granted his friend, the editor, this interview, but neither one of them realized that this might be the last time they would ever meet. Unfortunately, al-Buqaylī admits with regret that the script of that comprehensive interview was lost. Luckily, however, during that meeting, al- Sayyid Jāsim gave the manuscript of the Orisons to the editor to copy and return. As it turns out, the two men never met again, and the poems were never returned to the poet. We say “poems,” knowing too well that the Iraqi intellectual, who held himself to extremely high standards, did not really consider these pieces to be poems. On the other hand, after reading them, the editor felt that they were far superior to much that had been written and labeled as poetry across the Arab world.
Since al-Sayyid Jāsim had always been modest and never made any claim to being a poet, he therefore called these prose pieces simply “monologues.” The question remains, why “of the seventies?” Were they written then? We know that he was under surveillance during that time. Three years later, 1988, he was imprisoned for the publication of a book that deconstructed the early history of Islam and the Arabs according to a new methodology which excluded value judgment but searched for informative answers through a thorough reading of some specific documents. ‘Azīz al- Sayyid Jāsim, like many Iraqi poets and intellectuals, was repeatedly imprisoned, but he refused to go into exile even when he knew that his life was being threatened, a fact that was noticed by the editor in his introductory note to the monologues or orisons. He refused to abandon his homeland and flee even though he knew that it was only a matter of months before the regime would get rid of him considering him a threat to national security. There is even reason to believe that al- Sayyid Jāsim was consciously or unconsciously, searching for a path to martyrdom. If this is so, then the poems included here, especially the “Al-Shahīd”/(The Martyr) acquire a more urgent and sublime sense of self eulogy and indicate that ‘Azīz al- Sayyid Jāsim foretold, rather immortalized, his ending even before he was arrested and tortured. He prophesied his fate and projected to his admirers how he wished to be remembered. Behind self-elegizing there develops an acute sense of life, too, for imminent death endows life with poignancy. Recollection and exposition work together to involve writing in density which only Sufism can recapture. Through a seeming departure from the factual, the word maps the unfathomable and direct it anew towards unchartered lands and locations of forbearance and loss. Perhaps, this aspect, the navigation of the word for an anchor in a visionary experience, represents the most distinctive feature of this writing, and is certainly the one that should entitle it to appreciation.
As an intellectual and a visionary, al- Sayyid Jāsim vehemently rejected life in the ivory tower and strongly believed in putting his teachings to practice, as the editor rightly notes. He preached that the intellectual/rebel should remain above any suspicions and must be a guide and an example to others. Like Khalil Gibran, he believed that every thought that he imprisoned in his words must be freed by his deeds. Even during his darkest hours of arrest and torture, he never apologized or sought the help of his influential friends to save him from a painful end. He stood in front of his executioner as a “just pole” or a banner of conquest. He was imprisoned in 1961 and also in 1963. “From 1977 onwards, he was under surveillance, and at least eleven of his books were banned. Official newspapers were ordered not to publish his literary writings…”  On April 15, 1991, ‘Azīz al- Sayyid Jāsim was taken to prison again and was kept there for the rest of his life. No information was ever made available concerning his condition. There are strong suspicions that he might have died under torture perhaps because of “a letter which the writer sent to Saddam in early April 1991, criticizing him for the invasion of Kuwait, and for his atrocious slander of the south, its tradition and culture in a series of editorials.” 
Although these orisons belong entirely to the Sufi register, they are nevertheless also saturated with the scent of the Koranic tradition and oscillate between romantic, surrealistic and existential imagery. They take us on a spiritual journey through our own anguish from Genesis to Revelation and masterfully blend the mystical poetry of William Blake and Khalil Gibran, whom he used to admire, with that of Eliot’s The Waste Land and “The Hollow Men.” In these prose poems, written in the early 1980s, the Sufi strain is conspicuous. Along with it, there is an oblique criticism of man’s futile search for glory and the accumulation of wealth at the expense of other fellow humans. We also strongly detect the frightening and foreboding prediction of the downfall of the dictator juxtaposed to the powerful and immortal image of the martyr and his beloved homeland. Perhaps, this is the third aspect that gives the orisons a political dimension, a timely one that sets the visionary in touch with the timeless.
Through comparison and contrast, the Sufi strain is there to show the false glare of materialistic entanglement, the sickening obsession with glorified oppressive deeds, and the certainty of the eventual miserable death of the dictator. This is contrasted with the absolute detachment of Sufis from all worldly possessions, their continuous search for ultimate peace and altruism, and the absolute and just glorification of the martyr who is compared to “paradise…the eternal spirit….dream….resurrected name…sacred saying….banner of conquest….the soul of global pages….national lover….” In these orisons, it is clearly the martyr who wins the other space, the widening borderless luminosity far away from noise, money and corruption. It is towards the martyr as a spirit and a presence that the narrator/protagonist directs meditation and longing for it is through that path alone that the heart can retain its pulse and identify with a purpose and a commitment. It is at this state of unity and purification that love transcends the bodily limitations, escapes restrictions, overcomes constraints, and assumes a sublime meaning outside mundane reality. Love, as a sublime emotion in the human heart, has its own language, agonies and frustrations, but as soon as the heart surrenders its destiny to the inspiration of Sufism, it will no longer remain a prisoner, an “organ” in the human chest. It will transform itself into a “skylark” and a song of liberty.
Although many of the familiar signs in these poems belong to the Sufi tradition, others clearly build on ‘Azīz al- Sayyid Jāsim’s own narrative, especially his novel, The Suffering Primrose (1986). As noticed by Muhsin al-Musawi, in this novel we encounter for the first time, Sayyid Ibrāhīm, the mysterious figure who is endowed with extraordinary powers. His piercing looks enable him to paralyze people and even freeze machines. Sayyid Ibrāhīm visits the protagonist’s mother, his own sister, but for unknown reasons, refuses to read the fortune of her son. Thus, the ash-gray face which belongs to all, yet distinctive only of the one addressed in the poem, could well be the character of the narrator/ participant in Al-Zahr al-shaqī (The Suffering primrose), namely Wā’il.
In these prose poems, the author reveals what dictators deem as their overpowering right and irrevocable mastery over the writers’ fate but which is just a temporary illusion. The great intellectual, ‘Azīz al- Sayyid Jāsim, sadly, but brilliantly, predicts his own fate and records the odyssey of his death with a resounding victory for the martyr and a smashing defeat for the dictator. Thus, these poems may be seen as an epic of self eulogy and a personal hymn of victory and endurance. Similar to the Romantic and Transcendentalist poets and thinkers before him such as Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman and Gibran, al- Sayyid Jāsim ‘Aziz also confirms that he is not concerned with his body as much as with his soul, his voice, and his message. His body could be in jail while his mind and his teachings are freely roaming around and penetrating the ears and the hearts of the people. His body could be annihilated, but his words remain free and escape captivity and point towards a better tomorrow that can resist brutality, cruelty and oppression. Certainly the oppressive regime under which ‘Aziz lived understood this. That is why the dictator in his high tower felt threatened that his regime could be destabilized by the words and thoughts of al- Sayyid Jāsim and issued an order to silence the voice of the bard.
In these monologues “sleeping” is a state of union, of communing with the beloved: the Perfect, “The Pure”, ultimately The God-Head. “Longing” is the emotional manifestation of the spiritual journey towards the beloved. “Awakening” is a false state of existence, a “Separation,” a “fallen state,” away from the beloved. The “journey” or the quest is the ultimate purpose of the Sufi’s existence on this earth as he aspires towards the perfection of the “pure beloved.” The Sufi must accept life in all its seemingly contradictory forces. Life has both “joy and despair,” “innocence and experience,” “night and day” because life is a “Tear and a Smile,” and happy innocence leads to bitter experience which, according to Blake, leads to a higher innocence that dwells only with knowledge. It is through the marriage of opposites, the harmony between the contraries that we may become one with the spirit of the universe. According to al- Sayyid Jāsim, pain, not comfort and complacency, is the boat that leads to safety. The “perpetual inquirer” does not rest in his quest for the eternal truth. Praying becomes an act of creativity associated with burning, fire, flame, purification, cleanliness and melting. Such imagery abounds in both Blake’s and Gibran’s poetry and prose. “Aziz wants to “set himself ablaze” for what is the body but the empty shell that envelopes the soul. Here he is the closest to Blake who proclaimed:
I am wrapped in mortality
My flesh is a prison
My bones the bars of death.
Love is the road to paradise, a constant longing, better yet “a postponed kiss” not to be consumed but always desired. The only constant is truth. All else is a variable. The flesh is weak, and when morals become “the fear of others,” they lose their meaning and border on hypocrisy.
The stanza on the “liar” contains a horrific depiction that can only compare to “Revelation.” It evokes images of the Anti-Christ, the false Messiah, in his fake self glorification while the good people are sacrificed “on the masts of glory.” Throughout the poems, words like “transfiguration, sulphur, rapture, mud, and soothsayers” are replete with rich and controversial meanings that would necessitate volumes of interpretation to do them justice and to place them in their proper context in the poems and within the Sufi register. Perhaps it suffices here to learn from al- Sayyid Jāsim that “the joy of the summit is in divining the descent” because he certainly agrees with Gibran that when we reach the summit, only then do we begin to climb, and that when we reach the heart of life, only then do we realize that “mud is the most deserving of charity.”
To situate these orisons in the career of an intellectual is not possible, however, without some understanding of his Sufi register which is best explained in some of his early books, especially al-Iltizām wa-al-tasawwuf fī shi‛r ‛Abd al-Wahhāb al-Bayātī(1990; Commitment and Sufism in Abd al-Wahhāb al-Bayātī’s poetry). In this book he appreciates the poet’s tactful use of the Sufi register, but he notices a discrepancy between the register and the overall effect of poetry. While the Sufi register
provides the poet with enough sweep and lyricism to venue his emotions and feelings, it nevertheless collides with an adamant jargon that prevents this flowing feelingness from attaining the necessary harmony. In so far as the critic himself is concerned, the orisons were written at a certain stage in his life when there was no disharmony between the word and the direction of emotion and feeling. Both work together, fuse into each other, and sound as a harmonious musical piece. In other words, faith and practice are no longer disparate, a fact that the original Arabic version conveys, and are hopefully captured as well in the English version.
*This brief critical introduction that accompanies the English translation of these prose poems is not meant to be an explication de texte nor a detailed commentary on the rich Sufi heritage embedded in these wonderful poems. Rather, this is simply a highlight of some Sufi aspects that are readily detectable in the text and a glimpse at the life of such an eminent Iraqi intellectual.
“Munajayat al- Sab‘in” (“Orisons of the seventies”)
‘Aziz al- Sayyid Jasim’s prose poems
When I sleep longing for the faces that I love
And awake with nothing but separation,
I imagine that women, all women, are spinsters
And that the journey is a widow among maidens.
I say: This is but a false love
For one who is a perpetual inquirer.
I say to the one, who is in my heart,
To the stranger, the pure beloved,
And I say to myself, scolding myself:
You and I are two gates
For Night and Day
For Despair and Joy
But who can comprehend this or that?
Who can comprehend that despair is joy?
That pain is a boat,
Amidst a world suspicious of safety?
I want you,
I yearn for you,
I devote prayers to you.
Does the Sufi stop praying?
Does he patch himself?
You who have melted on my forehead
Is there malice after today,
Will there come
A conqueror or a conquered?
One who will mediate
Between the old and the young?
One who will not allow the forgotten to return?
The eye is but a mysterious plant
The sun’s shore is aflame
Tell him who longs to embrace you
To set himself ablaze!
Don’t you know?
The heart is failing….failing
And the ribs are but a cover!
Don’t you realize that love is a postponed kiss?
And that singing is an endless rain?
Where would I find the Just One?
Who would rule between me and myself?
Where would I find the Just One?
Who would tell me that truth is dead?
And that God is eternal?
Only my beloved says!
Another lie, for this heart has no love and no beloved
Truth is a word, and lying is a book
Ay beloved, you only have to choose the word… and then depart.
Such is my rambling from question to answer
Such is mercy and reprisal
This is a torment that I do not comprehend
I sob, I bear it, I laugh, I remember,
You who blame me,
The world is a mask
Life is a Saqi
Oh Saqi, take me away from your cup
And at the time of forgetfulness,
I call on you to possess this moment.
A shore searching for a fugitive
An eternal sidewalk
A lonely night!
Oh yearning that people sip
I say unto you,
Between me and my emotions,
Something I intend to forget
Something I am unaware of
Then you broken-hearted, you need to know
That morals are the fear of others
That I am dead
Pick yourself up then, and leave
Like a pale chariot in the street of fog
And if they ask me about you
I shall say he died
I shall say… he is gone.
Let the wailers lament
Your handkerchief is shame
He who cries must cry
Nevertheless, the most imminent danger is
That the questions are more than what we need
The mind has resigned
And between those whom we love and those whom we don’t
Leave the breasts for milk
Leave the ghost for the sleeper
Leave uncertainty for contentment.
Ask those who fuss,
Those who eat,
Those who dwell in coffee-houses,
And those who flirt: Why?
Ay, my beloved,
Joy is but a memory for the abducted
As he beseeches time for help
Joy is but a mat deserted by its sitters
A lover glancing at strange faces,
Searching for the face that nurtured him,
And then departed.
You who are absent, do you hear my voice
You who are absent, would you return?
Then there begins a new season
The season of memory and remembrance
After which my beloved, we grow old together.
Gratis – Love Elegy
Our love is sulphur
We are overfed with peace
We roam around the dining tables of grass
In our early stones
We receive the blessing
And on the rope of eventuality
Our necks hang
In the silence of the sacrificed.
Ay, you vendor, hovering like death
In the courtyards of passion
A bed walks, and a bed falls
And on the moustaches of men falls flies’ waste
This is a world which provides a lean spinster
You in your faith
I in mine
And between yours and mine
Extends the bridge of mercy
But I am a lover
And love is a blazing fire
I say to my beloved
I was the wood
And guided by this bonfire
I trace my ashes
I saw the liar
Floating on waves of gold
Carried and glorified by the waves
And on the masts of global glory
The eyes of the virgins were vanquished
But in those eyes, the benevolent stood like symbols.
Let it be barren
Barrenness is ashes
That extinguishes the eyesight of the prosperous
And in their faith
Your orphans are a whirlwind
If barrenness breeds feebleness
Then the orphan’s bones
Are defences against the years.
The dearest lip
Swelled with the first kiss
As we departed
A lip dreaming of swelling
And a kiss dreaming of the lip
Between the kiss and the lip
A code and a debt
While we stagger and collapse.
Every table is overburdened by its load
And I am burdened by my years
And in the early hours
Oh years of fog
We touched the cross with our lips
And took flight after our oath
I, a stumbler, sank
Mud is my love.
If transfiguration is the sudden rapture of the eyes
Then, before my beloved’s face, I forsake my history
I move on one foot
Over the thorns of hope
Who is able to bring back my face?
Who can fasten my fingers to my reed flute?
Caution on a sophists’ table
Is better for the heart and purer.
While some are overtaken with
Accounts of furniture
And empty flaunting
You proceed towards death
Like a just pole
As if your soul were a paradise
And with your passion
You plough through the thickness of
As if you are fire
As if you are the eternal spirit
Oh you migrating soul
Oh you personified presence
Like a dream
Oh you resurrected name
Like a sacred saying
Like the banner of conquest
If we did not join you
If we did not take the leap
That you took
If we did not give the young maidens
The music of everlasting longing and craving
If the word, the spirit, the life, the longing
Were not the endless end
Who are we then but the furniture of a playful fate?
Who are we then?
Perhaps I met you in a small coffee house
Perhaps I met you in the brass market
Or in the market of the cotton carders
Or perhaps we incidentally met over the bridge
Of the lovable Shatra.
Perhaps you didn’t know politics
Perhaps you were ashen faced
Like the so many faces of the coffeehouse goers
Perhaps the soothsayer said to your naïve mother one day:
Your son would be a great merchant
Or a distinguished officer or a physician
But you did not carry the distinctive mark
Your face was difficult to discern
By Sayyid Ibrahim
Hard it was too for fortune-tellers’ eyes, both male and female
So blended you were with the rest of the people
To the point of anonymity
And just like our faces were
Dressed with the colour of
The earth in pastures
In the courtyards of old schools
In the decayed buildings
So was your colour, similarly blended
Except that your colour
Poured out of you
So much so that you yourself became the ultimate colour
The genesis of sleepless cities
In the laziness of land features
You the offspring of our familiar shores
The son of the pastures of our longing
If these cities didn’t take pride in you
Then, who would break the siege of our cities?
Come out, you heart buried
Among layers of pretension
Come out, you transitory organ
With a faint pulse
Be a skylark, a voice
Be the wind… be whatever you wish to be
For what can you do when you hide
In the lean travel coffin?
What can you do if you didn’t follow the calling
In the company of the beloved country?
In the service of the beloved homeland?
You who gives this body energy and great intent
You the sign’s master
You who guides this body towards devotion
Or towards humiliating annihilation
Oh, my miserable heart
Help yourself, move on
For all the light of the earth
Is but a kiss.
In the memory of martyrs’ resurrection
Vacate the squares and streets from pedestrians
Because only in places empty of all but light
The martyrs stroll
Playing with innocent small toys
Games of childhood and growth
But in the noise of funerals
They pull away from crowds
They go away .... to the seventh layer.
While one of us sees the moon in a bowl of water
You see it in the sky as a sign of health
Swimming towards it as a migrating planet
You are the soul of global pages
Oh you national lover
You the country of overflowing luminosity
You, the martyr.
The breast swells with voices
And the soul is overcrowded with voices
Voices spread silently, sixty altogether.
The heart leaps
You would like to scream
Or to run … or to throw yourself from above
Or to fly
You would like to hit your head
With the very root of latent rebellion
With all the pressure of tension and imprisonment
You would like to utter even a single word
To shout it openly
In the streets of the city
One long word …. Uninterrupted
Until the pressure is lifted off of the heart
Until relief reaches you
From the window of communion
Who would bring back to this heart
A dead lover?
Woo to me, how much I fear death
For my beloved
My country extending
Between my heart and my beloved’s
So small, yet so large
This is for you from a lover
Longing for your Simoom
In your flaming summer
As much as he longs for
Your spring air
This is from a lover
Who loves your pools of salt
As much as your meadows
Who loves you as you are
Protect your living martyrs
Protect your living martyrs.
A Face like Providence
In the disturbance of the seasons
And the confusion of representations
Your face enters the world like providence
You, the unique starry season
You who are filled with rainbows
Your luminosity is the universe
Which has no equal.
Your soul is the relentless call that does not bow
But the tale, deserted in the caves of time relates
That you nourish the insults,
That you offer the despicable ones your smile
That your lover, drowning in the sea of your memory
Is wounded by your tyranny
While beauty craves him, longing for him.
Who taught the eyes to practice vengeance?
Your eyes are the languorous longing
Your eyes are the charming succour
Why then do you deny me a fair share?
Why do you shut the door in the face of inquiring hearts?
Learn at least the lie of greeting back
Even a lie
For the sake of mercy
According to the heart’s code
Oh, if justice could only reach the beloved’s eyes and greet him.
Only then, love will flow magnanimously
And the eyes would receive their due status
Each eye breathing approval from the other
And so, the wedding of eyes will commence
Such is the eyes’ ceremony
And on the street crossings, Oh beloved of my soul,
We all become the carrier, the stretcher
We all become the home you seek
We will all take you in
Though without a shelter.
A sleepless man said
The heart’s icon is nobler on your neck
You the boon-companion of the highest star
And along the expanse of the distance
You overtly migrate
For dead is he who consumes his manhood
Dead is he who is enslaved by wile
The survivor is he who immersed his hand in the longings of daylight
And roamed freely!
Oh, you pure delight of my eyes
Oh, you essence of generous hands
Oh, you delicacy of guiding fingertips
Oh, you offspring of wheat, light, heavenly sweets and populated drawings
Do the nights pass you so leisurely? No succour!
Oh, you spring of the soul, image of the place!
About Certainty and its Holders
One of the repressed said:
My friend, certainty is an endless, fathomable suffering
Build your soul into a ship and sail downward, dive.
For the joy of the summit is in divining the descent
And in the depths of the dark seas
There are barges
Drunk with the first ingot
Where silver is preferred to gold
And mud is the most deserving of charity.
 Reprinted in ‛Aziz al-Sayyid Jāsim, Naúwa taúrīfiyyah awsa‛ lil-fikr al-qawmī( Towards greater revisionism of Nationalist thought; Beirut and Amman:Al-MuÕssasah al-‛Ammah lil-DirŒsat, 2005), p. 239. Only four parts appeared, then the publication in al-Bayān (Dubai) stopped.
 See Muhsin al-Musawi, Reading Iraq: Culture and Power in Conflict ( London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2006), appendix.
 ‛Aziz al-Sayyid Jāsim, Naúwa taúrīfiyyah awsa‛ lil-fikr al-qawmī, .pp .9-3o.
 ‛Aziz al-Sayyid Jāsim, Naúwa taúrīfiyyah awsa‛ lil-fikr al-qawmī, p. 240.
 ‛Aziz al-Sayyid Jāsim, Naúwa taúrīfiyyah awsa‛ lil-fikr al-qawmī, p. 239.
 His editor said in the introductory note to the orisons:” Here we read for this great writer the writing down and signing of the date of his death.” ‛Aziz al-Sayyid Jāsim, Naúwa taúrīfiyyah awsa‛ lil-fikr al-qawmī, p. 240.
 ‛Aziz al-Sayyid Jāsim, Naúwa taúrīfiyyah awsa‛ lil-fikr al-qawmī, pp.239-240.
 See Muhsin J. al-Musawi, Reading Iraq: Culture and Power in Conflict ( London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2006), p. pp.13-39, 78-87.
 Êêalāú al-Far‹ūsī, http://www.kitabat.com/azi_jaaass.htm, 01/18/2006, 1-7, at. p.3.
 Muhsin J. al-Musawi, Reading Iraq: Culture and Power in Conflict, pp. 145-46.
 Muhsin J. al-Musawi, The Postcolonial Arabic Novel ( Leiden: Brill, 2003), p. 296.
 ‛Aziz al-Sayyid Jāsim, Naúwa taúrīfiyyah awsa‛ lil-fikr al-qawmī, pp. 247-248.
 Muhsin J. al-Musawi, The Postcolonial Arabic Novel, p. 296. Also, Muhsin J. al-Musawi, Arabic Poetry: Trajectories of Modernity and Tradition ( London: Routledge, 2006), pp. 178-79, 180, 261.
 Reference to Gibran’s book under the same title.
 See Geoffrey Keynes, ed. The Complete Writings of William Blake (London: Oxford UP, 1966), pp. 605-606.
 A town in southern Iraq across from the river al-Gharrāf, south of Nāsiriyyah, known for its urbanity, specialized markets and leftist leanings; thus, undergoing so many reprisals and enduring a series of repressions since 1962. For this piece of information and the rest on Iraqi cities and their significance for the text, I am indebted to Professor Muhsin J. al-Musawi
 The name appears in the author’s novel, Suffering Primrose, as the protagonist’s uncle who is endowed with some extraordinary powers, but who refuses to read others’ fortune, and even magicians are afraid of him. In the original Arabic text, the name is erased.
 The reference is to Sufi riddles. The author points out the following: When the renowned Iranian mystic Awúad al-Dīn B. Abī al-Fakhr al-Kirmānī (d. 1238) said: “I see the moon in a bowl of water,” Shams al-Dīn al-Tabrīzī (d. 1244) responded: “Unless there is a bubo on your back, why don’t you see it in the sky?”.
 In the author’s novel Suffering Primrose the reader comes across such conflicting feelings. On one occasion a strong premonition takes hold of him of a feeling of some advancing predicament. Then a foreigner, young and charming, throws himself from above leaving a note to explain his feeling of ennui and nothingness. The protagonist develops this as a leitmotiv addressing himself every now and then while contemplating a way out. See Muhsin al-Musawi, The Postcolonial Arabic Novel (Leiden: Brill, 2003, reprint 2005), pp. 296-301.
 The word in Arabic is “Qadr” plural “Aqdār”. It may also mean status as well as moral or social fortune or fate. The pun here is to draw attention to precariousness in attitudes and politics
[Munajayat Al-Sab‘in(ARABIC) (Orisons of the Seventies(ENGLISH)): ‘Aziz Al-Sayyid Jasim’s Latest Prose Poems, translation and introduction, in Journal of Arabic Literature, Volume XXXVII, No. 2, 2006, Brill Publishers, Leiden, the Netherlands.]