When Melodies Gather: Oral Art of the Mahra

The Trials and Rewards of Fieldwork

Poem composed by ʿAbdallāh ʾAḥmad Sheyl al-Mahrī and  recorded by Sam Liebhaber in Ṣalālah, February 2012. During one of my meetings with ʿAbdallāh, I received a phone call from my wife, and ʿAbdallāh saw how much I missed her and my son, Marwan. This poem addresses the longing and anxiety of being separated from one’s family as well the rewards that hard work will bring.

1) men hīs marwān // hrūǧ we-bkohFrom the time when Marwan // spoke and cried
2) ḳfūd edmā // l-ḥayb we-hwohTears came down // [tears] of his father and they poured down
3) w-lū wudʾak lɛ̄ // ḏā hāśen blohBut I didn’t know // from what he suffered
4) ḳeylōb we-śwāḳ // ǧemʿīhī klohWorry and longing // together the two
5) ǧnūb eḥarmēt // beḏlīs we-rdohHe went away from his wife // he abandoned (her) and left (her) behind
6) w-ʾeṭēfel kṭawr // ār ḥawlī ṯrohThe child had only tied // two years together
7) ʾār ḫāf eḏ-zəhēd // w-eġeyǧ šehdohBut perhaps he is one who understands // and the fellow did it correctly:
8) we-bǧūd ektōb // w-ḳawl šeǧbohHe ran after books // and gathered poetry
9) l-hān eḳlēm // we-ǧhāzeh ḥwohAnything that his pens // and his equipment [his computer] collect
10) w-ʾāmer ḳṣeyr // ʾār ḥad we-ǧrohA lifetime is short // indeed it is limited and passes by
11) w-benɛ̄dem ḏkeyr // b-hān hebḳohBut mankind remembers [a person] // by what he has left behind.

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