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Nothing Has Taken Me


Nothing has taken me
       more by surprise—
               that dove, cooing
                        on a branch between
                        the islet and river,
               its collar pistachio
       green, its breast
lapis, its neck
ashimmer, its back
       and the tips of its wings
               maroon. Its ruby
                        eyes had flitting
                        lids of pearl
               above, flecked
       and bordered with gold.
Its beak was black
at the point alone,
       a reed's tip
               dipped in ink.
                        The bough was its throne.
                        It hid its throat
               in the fold of a wing—
       resting. Moaning,
I startled it. And seeing me
weeping, it spread
       its wings, then beat them—
               and as it flew
                       it took my heart
               away. It's gone. . . .

                                    Abu al-Hasan 'Ali bin Hisn,
                                              Arabic, 11th century


Peter Cole

Hymns & Qualms: New and Selected Poems and Translations
Farrar, Straus and Giroux


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