‘He seems to me equal to gods that man
whoever he is who opposite you
sits and listens close
to your sweet voice.’ – Sappho

I look at you and him creating laughter,
Clearly in love, at least to me outside,
I look and try to read the words your eyes
Speak to him, to hear his close listening;

Your mutual laughter is like music from
The gods who look down and smile at you
Indifferent to my refraining heart that mutely
Flies towards you unknown, crusted with jealousy;

My tongue is broken, a fine pencil of fire
Draws across my skin, my sight is turned,
My ears drum with racing blood that owns me,
I am enslaved by your coupled happiness and laughter;

Skimmed with icy sweat, pierced to death yet living still,
Gangrene has taken my senses, I want to look away
But cannot, you are in the grasp of this golden man,
I have become impoverished, yet I want to dare …

Raficq Abdulla is a writer and broadcaster on a number of topics including Art, Shari’ah law, Islam, identity, poetry and spirituality & the sacred. He has sat on the boards of the Poetry Society, of Planet Poetry and of English PEN where he was Acting President in 2013/14. He now sits on the editorial Board of the translators’ journal, In Other Words. He is a member of the Translation Committee of English PEN.

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