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Lines after Rābiʿah al-Baṣrī

In love there is nothing
between heart and heart.

Words ache after truth.
Only tasting is knowing –

an explanation is a lie.

How can you describe
the thing that wipes you out
and is you
and tells you what to say?


If I bow because I fear hell,
burn me in hell

and if I pray for paradise, 
lock the door of paradise

but if I love you for yourself,
let me look at you.


My soul is a shrine,
mosque or church
where I kneel
at a blank altar.

Love is the place
of powerlessness,
of blazing loss –
rapture pours into itself,
its own drain;
its wings beat me

I am a shrine,
a mosque, a church
that dissolves, that
is eaten by


In one hand, a flame,
in the other, water.

I am torching Heaven,
extinguishing Hell.

It is time to tear this veil down
and see the real God.


Take the badness
mixed up in this prayer –
or take my prayer, badness and all.


Death is the most intimate act.

Knowing who I’ll kiss when it comes,
I consent to a thousand deaths.


I recommend reclusion.
With my beloved
I’m peaceful,
nothing human
can compare –
he is where I struggle
and turn
and if I die of desire
and have not satisfied
my love,
well, poor me –
he is the craving and the cure,
existence, ecstasy...
I’m shunning all
this being for
the melting point –

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About the translation:
» Read translator's notes
Rābiʿah al-Basrī
Clare Pollard
Original language:
2016 Number 1 - SOLD OUT - The Great Flight

About the author

Clare Pollard


Clare Pollard

Clare Pollard has published four collections of poetry, the most recent of which, Changeling (Bloodaxe, 2011) is a Poetry Book...

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