My Heart Beats in Deutschland
(Frankfurt Book Fair, 2004)

My heart beats in Deutschland
As no place else
Fröhlich, carefree

Overlooking Rhineland
Apfel Blüten cling to my hair
To my nostrils
I roll hinunter in grass

Scabs on meine Beine
Tell of where I’d been
Scaling der Fels
Or climbing up
A large cherry tree

Finding the beautiful Welt
Where einsam und langsam
Wir kommen zusammen
In a lifetime Fest
Ich, das Kind, und die Poesie

To Annagun

I always knew I’d find you someday,
dear friend of my fondest childhood
memories. All the time I was growing up,
every cherry tree reminded me of your Bad
Godesberg garden, and my legs itched to beat
you to its top. Pajama & pancake parties
was our invention, as was the sign-language
we devised when our teacher made us sit
apart in class.

Once, in London, I thought I caught a
glimpse of you in a crowd. And then again,
a decade later, at a shopping center in Paris.
Both our fathers were diplomats; you could
have settled anywhere! But you chose to
come back.

Finding you here, where my childhood
lingers, is perfect. The beloved Deutschland,
that preserved it for me, now also gives me
back my long-lost friend. And it is here that
our laughter is heard once more, joined by
that of husbands and children who get a
brief glimpse of the kids we once were.

We knew all there was to know about
each other when we were ten. Now, so many
decades later, how do we make up for lost
time? You write me letters, I give you my
latest book of poetry. We spend week after
week reading about each other’s lives. You
tell me that you kept going back to certain
poems, smiling at times or teary-eyed. My
poetry is my diary, and you come to know
what went on with my life in the time we
were lost to each other.

Now, dear Annagun, I present you
with a collection I’ve put together in honor of
our friendship. At ten years of age, an Arab
and a Scandinavian in Germany are just two
kids. Now, as middle-aged adults, we are
influenced by our culture and our past. I am
thankful for having had a good life, but as
an Arab, it hasn’t been easy. This collection
will help many people understand why.
When you bridged the time-gap, it was as if
we never lost track of one another. As for a
‘cultural-gap,’ I know it doesn’t exist between
friends. I also know that whenever two
strangers reach out to each other, they begin
to bridge all gaps. This is the bridge:

Wilkommen to Frankfurt!
Meine Äffin
(Childhood poem: ‘My Monkey’)

Als ich war in Indien
Ich war sehr klein
Und hatte eine Äffin
Die Äffin war meine

Sie hiess Lucy
Und war sehr klein und süss
Und immer mit den Händen
Nahm sie eine Nuss

Die Zeit ist jetzt vorbei
Als Lucy war klein und braun
Die Zeit ist jetzt vorbei
Als sie gesessen auf dem Baum
Die Zeit ist jetzt vorbei
Als wir waren klein
Die Zeit ist jetzt vorbei
Als Lucy war mein...

Bad Godesberg, 1963

I Remember You

When life is born again
When the grass is green
When the flowers open
When fresh dew is seen

I remember you…

When the leaves drop
When the winds howl
When the flowers tremble
And bend to the ground

I remember you…

When the clouds open
When the sun is born
When the breezes lift
In the early morn

I remember you…

When the rain sprinkles
When the sky is gray
When the moon descends
When night meets day

I remember you…