Translated by George Dimitri Selim

Satan came to me in my dream
desirous to dispute with me.
With his frightful horns and flaming eyes
he got close to me.
“Go away!” I said, “Beat it, damn you!
Don’t disturb my thoughts.”  

“I came to entertain you,” he said,
“with my knowledge, skill, and experience.
Answer me! Who are you?”

“One of the sages of the earth,” I said,
“Or haven’t you heard of my fame?
I have filled the world with poetry
Won’t you softly murmur my poems in hell?”

He burst out laughing
at my talk in surprise and scorn.
“Is there hope for wisdom on earth,
or for goodness from its evil people?
If people were just
they would exalt my value in their hearts.
When God created them,
He knew that they would disobey Him forever.
He built them hell,
and chose me to punish them and take revenge.
It’s because of them that He threw me in the abyss,
and I lost my might, authority, and power.
Between them and my Lord I was the victim.
Woe unto them!
The fire of hell did not frighten them,
nor did they learn from my fall.
They persisted in their doom,
disturbing God’s peace and mine,
and my patience.
Since they erected hell among themselves
my home is vacant of devils.
They all reside in people’s souls,
striving for evil and harm.
Don’t you see them
making servants of fuel and wind,
flying in space like birds,
hurling fire at mankind,
heedless of harm and destruction?
Don’t you see them on earth
surging and agitated like lions and leopards?
Don’t you see them
making the whales captives,
causing death to rage,
and the interior of the seas to tremble?
How could Moses think
that the Lord created man
– from the very beginning – in His image?
I die of shame
when they say that they are my followers.”

In the intensity of my anger
I struck Satan for despising men.
But when I woke up
and my eyes wandered over the newspaper,
and saw life a torrent of fire
in a hell of horrors and dangers, I said:
“Contentious though they might be
Satan’s words are true.”

From Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab-American Poetry (Interlink Books, 2000). Used with permission of the editors, Gregory Orfalea and Sharif Elmusa, and Interlink Books.