AIN ASSALAM
A Spring of Peace

(Dedicated to the Palestinian People)
Anne Fairbairn AM
While the sun-star rests beyond the West,
I dream through shadowed veils of sleep
Of a lucent, spilling Spring of Peace
In the ancient land of Palestine,
Where, lustful to the flesh and soul,
The primal waters of this source
Are gently flowing making whole.
Here in silence with the stars,
Poets and slaves drift to heal, console,
Around a floating crescent moon,
As flocks of birds fly down to join them
And Farid ad-Din Attar sings 'Our souls
Are searching in this dream for the divine truth.'
*      *     *
A girl whispers, 'Anne, you're as free
As a Seagull soaring above the sea
I'm Dabitum, a slave from Ur.'
She shows her master's seal to me,
Rolling in slowly across the clay
- A whip, a blade, a rope, a key -
Engraved four thousand years ago,
Its message is as clear today.
*      *     *
A slave from Egypt lifts his hand,
Pointing to a cedar chest,
'There my master's body rests.
See rampant on the rounded lid,
Two lions snarling, serpent-locked;
While ivory sun-disks measure hours,
Horus of Behdat's emblem gleams.'
*      *     *
In a field nearby, shrouded in mist,
Stands a Roman slave, a Nubian youth,
Amidst desert Iris, each dew-blessed,
Yet dark as a Bedouin tent of hair.
He points to a sand-hill near the spring,
'Here my master's stallion fell,
Struck down by swords, bright as flame,
Look where his sculptured image lies,
His massive head and wiry mane
Cleanly etched by comb-toothed chisels,
His eyes stone-turned, in soulful shame.
*      *     *
Between the eternal and the hour,
Deep within my dream I see,
Beside this tranquil Spring of Peace,
Through weaving mists of history,
A singing slave, Horayrah.
Playing on her skin-stretched lute,
She sings, weeping, to the moon,
'May I become a blossom-bride,
Look to the orchard and know I'll be
Raised out of sullen slavery,
Out of utter wretchedness
   To virgin-chaste and blessedness.'                   
*      *     *
Resting beside her on a stone
Is a Hebrew girl from Babylon
Who ceases weeping to pluck her harp
And sing these words of King Solomon.
'May the desert blossom as the Rose,
With garden fountains and spilling wells.
Let us wander together into the fields.
Let us rest in peace among the Hennas.
Let us walk at daybreak in the vineyards
To see whether the vines are budding,
The pearl-white petals opening,
The Pomegranates blossoming
- While wild Mandrakes are perfume spreading.'
*      *     *
In the twofold darkness of my dream,
Shadows of Lote and Tamarisk,
Moving with the constant moon,
Pattern the sands around this spring
As poets and slaves drift together.
Al-Khansa in flowing, saffron robes,
Smiles at me, while circling  Doves,
Fly down to splash with a Hoopoe bird.
She whispers these birds' message of peace,
'The rain delivers this merciful source,
Drink deeply here and know your course.'
*      *     *
Al-Khansa beckons the poet Antara,
Son of an Ethiopian slave,
Who sings for us from among the reeds,
'We Arabs long for our liberty,
Yet mirages still pervade our dreams
With the silken sigh of poetry.
Our hearts are moved by the golden dunes,
Where stars once led us on our way,
From our campsite of tent pegs and ashes
- Our path is strewn with thorns today.'
*      *     *
In the pale moonlight I recognize
The troubled face of Samih al Qasim;
He sighs, 'Thorns are tearing   our flesh each day,
But we're living like slaves anyway.
The Acacia is drooping … Rafah's gates
Are sealed by wax and locked by curfew …
Each door in Rafah opens like a wound.'
*      *     *
Soon he is joined by Mahmoud Darwish,
Crying, 'Mount Carmel is in us …
The grass of Galilee is on our lashes …
This land absorbs the skin of martyrs.
This land promises wheat and stars.
Worship it! We are its salt and its water.
We are its wound … A wound that fights!
We cling to our dreams through bitter nights.'
*      *     *
Fadwa Tuqan now murmurs to me,
'Along our road of agony
Jerusalem is whipped; the soldiers
Are drawing blood, but the world's heart
Often seems closed to our tragedy.'
Her brother, Ibrahim, a martyr,
Sings of a martyr, 'Serene in spirit
Steadfast of heart … his soul possessed
Of high endeavour … more noble than all.
On the path of greatness he walks tall.'
- His tribute could be to himself.
*      *     *
May Sayigh soon joins our throng,
'Please listen' she murmurs, to my song,
'Mourned by Orange trees that do not die,
Tomorrow when Sparrows return to Gaza
To peck at our blue window sills
And the scent of Jasmine fills the air,
The Henna tree will remain alone
- Alone like a stranger in despair.'
*      *     *
Tawfiq Zayyad then sings defiantly,
'In Nablus, Gaza and Janine,
We shall remain to guard the shade
Of pur vines and each Fig and Olive tree.'
*      *     *
In my dream I ask quite wistfully,
'What is the purpose of living if
We refuse to practice goodness?'
'I agree,' May Sayigh replies quietly,
'For our lives are filled with tragedy;
Let's drink tonight from this lucent spring
Then strive together in order to bring
To our country true justice and harmony.'
*      *     *                  
Soon Ali Ahmad Sa'id  - Adonis -
Drifts into my dream singing:  'Because
I drift into my own dreams I could see
Everything since my very first step
Into the distance.  Now I weep
For the people of Palestine.'
*      *     *
Soon, swooping down to join its shadow,
Comes a Peregrine Falcon, talons extended,
As Farid ad-Din Attar again appears,
Singing 'The sun may rise and set
In your shining eyes my friends, but try
To grasp eternal love, take heed,
So you who have eyes will surely see
The expanding radiance of eternity.'
*      *     *
From moon-shadows near this spring,
A man with eyes like stars appears
A midnight Iris held in his hand.
He smiles then gently speaks to me;
His is the pure, eloquent voice of
A Prince of Poets, al-Muttannabi,
'Anne, our destiny is clear,
May the central wisdom of your dream
Inspire us all as we gather here,
Dispelling our suffering and fear.
So sings this shining water-dream,
With light upon exquisite light,
As spirit-sheathed and cased in white
We sing in peace throughout this night.'
*      *     *
I wake to feel the timeless breath
Of a distant desert on my face.
In the cool silence beyond the wind,
I watch with awe our brilliant stars
With our radiant Southern Cross
Drifting on their cosmic course,
Bright as those in the sapphire space,
Above the spirits of these slaves and poets,
Who, joined in echoing evocation
Gathered at this dreaming source.