In Arabic There Are Eleven Stages of Love


by Katya Vondermuhll


Hawa alaqah kalaf

ishq sha’af shaghaf

jawaa taym tabl



I love.

I am a breath

blown back

and forth, rising

and falling, the tip

of the branch, it clinches

my flesh, a lesion

now red.

In Beirut I had to cover

my forearm. You had left

the mark of your thumb.

The healed man

from the Gospels

goes back

to the pool

of Silouan

and pulls

the clay

from his eyes.

I want

to be blind


In the market square

a camel is covered

with tar. I am

burning. Is it true

there is relief

in this ritual?

I want to know you really want

it. Look at me! Look

me in the eyes.

The first stage

of destruction

is called

shaghaf. This

is when it has spread

to the spleen. This

is the stage

before grief.

In a small space

a few leagues

from the market sits

the ewe, her head

bowed, awaiting

slaughter. For now

she is happy, her milk


What is your obsession

with this phrase?

Tell me.

I will not say it.

Just once?


Tabl is malady. The dressmaker

takes the damask cloth and tears

it into many pieces. Here, look!

Look what I’ve made for you.

In the Hamad it is so black

you cannot see

the stars. At night it is as cold

as the northern sea.

Hamza, the glottal stop, the catch

in your voice.

You cannot see it.

It is something that is felt

in the throat.

Habibti, habibti, my love,

my dear. I hear you say

this to your daughter. I love

you, habibti. I love

you so much.

My lips are closed. I am ended.

I am the yaa’ as in yell

and breeze. The crushed

s with the two dots

beneath its belly. This

is the last letter

of your alphabet. This

is the last time I am


Say it!