Friendship, with Omar Alshikh

I sent the published Syrian poet and journalist Omar Alshikh a poem in Arabic about friendship. Like me, he lives in Larnaca, and has been a dear friend to me for many months now. He responded to my poem with one of his own. This was a particularly exciting exercise for me as it was the first time I wrote a poem in Arabic. Though I know and love it well, I think and write mostly in English, a consequence of my parents’ displacement, the result of their dissidence. Eager to live fully in my Arabness, I moved to Damascus in 2008 and enjoyed blissful years before I too joined the ranks of the exiled. Though Omar and I never met in Syria, I feel it in every conversation, every word, every syllable we exchange.

The exchange was written in Arabic. Translations follow below.

من ريم الى عمر

يا صديقي، يا وفيّ، يا غالي عليّ،
الكل يرغب في الحب العاطفي، الحب المثير،
لكن امامي اجمل وأأمن حب،
بين اسطر حواراتنا، في عواصف اذهاننا، بين ضراعات احضاننا،
لا نشوة تستاهل المخاطرة بالحب الصريح، الحب المتين، الحب الحقيقي،
حب الصداقة.

من عمر الي ريم

اخترنا الضوء مكاناً لأصواتنا، في قمّة فرحنا،
في قمّة خيباتنا،
في قمّة شعريتنا وأحلامنا،
كنّا نزرع بذور الإنسانية الجديدة، في بلدنا الجديد قبرص، والعالم يتحارب في بلدنا البعيد في الشام.
نرسم بالمساءات، ابتساماتنا. ونأخذ قماش لوحتنا من الحبّ.
تعلمت الحريّة من وضوحك، وسقيت الطفلة المختبئة في روحك، لتكون شاعرة جميلة.
مسكت يدك، يد الإنسان الحقيقي دون أقنعة وخجل من المشاعر والانهيارات العاطفية.
وصنعت معك أنهار الطاقة الإنسانية النقية الإلهية.
وأنا اليوم في عزلتي، أراقب العالم، وأفتقد شوارعنا وليالينا وحواراتنا وسجالتنا ومسرحنا.
لكني لا أفتقدك أبداً، لأنكِ معي، أسست حضورك بلغتك السورية المُحببة
وتماسكت فيك صورة الحبّ الصادق، حبّ دون انتظار، حبّ دون أطراف منتصرة وأخرى خاسرة،
إنه فعلاً كما رسمناه معاً صداقة الحبّ…
عقولنا التي ترقص بحريّة في الليالي، وأفكارنا الّتي دون حدود تأخذنا إلى عوالم الجمال والمتعة.
سوف تنضج بساتينا صداقتنا وتثمر بالقصائد واللوحات الساحرة.


Reem to Omar:

My friend, my loyal one, my valued one,
Everyone wants a passionate love, a thrilling love,
But before me I have the most beautiful and secure love,
Between the lines of our conversations, the storms of our minds, the arms of our hugs,
No ecstasy warrants risking such an honest love, a strong love, a true love,
the love of friendship.

Omar to Reem:

My friend, my friendship,
We chose the light as a space for our voices, at the peak of our happiness,
At the peak of our despair,

At the peak of our poetry and dreams.
We would plant the seeds of a new humanity, in our new country Cyprus, while others fight wars in our faraway country Syria.
We would paint our smiles during our evenings together, and take the canvas of our paintings from love.
I learned freedom through your honesty, and watered the hidden child in your soul, so she may grow to become a beautiful poet.
I held your hand, the hand of a true person without masks or shame about emotions and breakdowns.
And I made with you rivers of pure compassionate divine energy.
And today in my isolation, I watch the world and miss our streets and evenings, our conversations and records.
But I do not miss you, because you are with me, I made you present with your beloved Syrian accent,
And held on to the image of honest love, love without waiting, love without winners and losers,
It truly is as we drew it together, the friendship of love.
Our minds that dance with freedom in the night, our ideas that without limits take us to worlds of beauty and delight.
The gardens of our friendship will grow and bear the fruit of magical poems and art.

Creative Conversations: An Introduction
If you’d like to engage in an exchange with me, contact me.