Reprinted from the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society, Vol. XVIII, 1995.

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 11th annual symposium of the Muhyiddin lbn 'Arabi Society in the UK, 'The Perfectibility of Man', Oxford, 8-10 April 1994.

The titles of the poems were supplied by the translator.

Selections from Ibn 'Arabi's Tarjuman al-Ashwaq
(Translation of Desires)

Translated by Michael A. Sells

Amid the Scent of Absinthe
and Moringa Blossoms

The friends we treasured are gone and with them our patience

gone and they had been alive in the black core of the heart

I asked where the riders halted and knelt their camels

Amid the scent of absinthe, they said, and moringa blossoms

I told the wind to track them down

in the shade of the thicket where the wings of their tents

were spread

To bring them greetings from the brother of grief

When the tribe scattered his heart was torn.

In Memory of Those
Who Melt the Soul Forever

Their meadows of spring are desolate now
yet desire for them
lives always in our heart
never dying.

These are their ruins.
These are our tears
in memory of those
who melt the soul forever.

I called out, following after


You so full with beauty

I've nothing!

I rolled my cheek in the dust of love
tender, in rage
By appeal to the right of desire for you
don't shatter the heart

Of a man drowned in his words
burned alive
in sorrow.
Nothing can save him now

You want a fire?
Go easy. This passion
is incandescent. Touch it.
It will light your own.

Rivers Meandering like Snakes

Lightning flashed for us
in Abraqayn.
Thunder clashed
between our ribs.

The clouds let down a fine rain
over sand slipped hills,
over quivering branches
bending toward you.

The stream banks burst
amid a rush of fragrance.
Doves let out their cry,
the green sprigs tender.

They tied down their red tent cupolas
between the rivers
meandering like snakes,
placed among them

Demoiselles radiant
as suns rising,
dark-eyed, graces,
understanding, tender.

I Saw the Cords of Fated Death

The ringnecked dove cooed.
A lover yearned,
saddened by the echoing

At the sound of her desire,
eyes welled,
sudden as underground springs

I responded
like a mother stripped of her only child.
Loss is the loss
of your one and only.

I called back a cry
but grief was between us,
I revealed myself.
She stayed hidden.

I felt love's sting
on the sands of 'Alij
white tents along the slopes,
the large-of-eyes,

glances killing,
eyelids sheathes
of swords that glisten.

I choked back tears
from what was hurting me,
hiding my love from the blame-monger,
acting well,

Until the crow cawed
separation, and parting exposed,
for all to see,
the passion of one grieving.

The riders rode, cutting
the nose-rings,
red roans beneath the saddle,
cries of yearning.

Before my eyes
I saw the cords of fated death,
as they loosened the reins
and cinched the saddle strap.

In love fever
separation kills.
Finding her
would ease the burning.

No one blames me
wanting her.
I love her
beauty wherever she turns.