Juan telling a joke

Chiste :)


Mind Your Language – Chiste


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September 30, 2012 · 9:20 pm


Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera
Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera

Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crece la palma
Y antes de morir yo quiero
Echar mis versos del alma

No me pongan en lo oscuro
A morir como un traidor
Yo soy bueno y como bueno
Moriré de cara al sol

Con los pobres de la tierra
Quiero yo mi suerte echar
El arroyo de la sierra
Me complace más que el mar

Tiene el leopardo un amigo
En su monte seco y pardo
Yo tengo más que el leopardo
Porque tengo un buen amigo

Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera
Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera
¡Dilo Compay!
¡Ahí na’ ma’!
Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera
Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera…

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September 30, 2012 · 9:03 pm

A lesson in drawing, by Syrian poet: Nizar Qabbani

My son places his paint box in front of me

and asks me to draw a bird for him.

Into the color gray i dip the brush

and draw a square with locks and bars.

Astonishment fills his eyes:

:… But this is a prison, father,

Dont you know, how to draw a bird?”
And I tell him : “Son, forgive me.

I’ve forgotten the shapes of birds.”


My son puts the drawing book in front of me

and asks me to draw a wheatstalk.

I hold the pen

and draw a gun.

My son mocks my ignorance,


“Dont you know, father, the difference between a wheatstalk and a gun?”

I tell him, “Son,

Once I used to know the shapes of wheatstalks

the shape of the loaf

the shape of the rose

But in this hardened time

the trees of the forst have joined

the militia men 

and the roses wears dull fatigues

In this time of armed wheatstalks 

armed birds

armed culture

and armed religion

you cant buy a loaf

without finding a gun inside

you can’t pluck a rose in the field

without it raising its thorns in your face

you cant buy a book,

you can’t buy a book that doesn’t explode between your fingers.”


My son sits at the edge of my bed

and asks me to recite a poem,

A tear falls from my eyes onto the pillow.

My son licks it, astonished, and says:

“But this is a tear, father, not a poem!”

“When you grow up, my son,

and read the diwan of Arabic poetry

You’ll discover that the word and the tear are twins

and the Arabic poem

is no more than a tear wept by writing fingers.”


My son lays down his pens, his crayon box

in front of me

and asks me to draw a homeland for him.

The brush trembles in my hands

and I sink, weeping.

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Pond by the Dead Sea

Pond by the Dead Sea 2012, Nina’s Mideast Journals

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When president Obama announced the death of Bin Laden, there was a great relief and triumphant feeling in the West, though the death of Bin Laden was more symbolically relevant than from a military point of view. An even greater feeling of relief must have engulfed Rome, when it became known that the fleet of Marc Antony and Cleopatra was destroyed at Actium and that Cleopatra had committed suicide. This battle took place in 30 BC and was a turning point in Roman history: after years of civil strife, Octavian got the upper hand and defeated Mark Antony.  Assuming the name of Augustus, he brought the Pax Augustana over the Roman Empire, one of the most happy periods this empire has experienced during its long existence.   

As soon as Horace (65-8 BC)  – then the rising star amongst the poets of Rome – heard of outcome of the battle of Actium, he wrote a poem celebrating  this event. Though he describes Cleopatra as afatale monstrum, he admires her courage for wanting to die rather than be taken prisoner.
What Horace could not have known, is that this poem is the first in a long line of artistic works about Cleopatra:  fiction, drama, biographies , paintings movies. Let’s say that this start could have been far worse!
Ode 1.37
Nunc est bibendum, nunc pede libero
pulsanda tellus, nunc Saliaribus
     ornare puluinar deorum
     tempus erat dapibus, sodales.
Antehac nefas depromere Caecubum               5
cellis auitis, dum Capitolio
     regina dementes ruinas
     funus et imperio parabat
contaminato cum grege turpium
morbo virorum, quidlibet impotens               10
     sperare fortunaque dulci
     ebria. Sed minuit furorem
uix una sospes nauis ab ignibus,
mentemque lymphatam Mareotico
redegit in ueros timores               15
     Caesar, ab Italia uolantem
remis adurgens, accipiter uelut
molles columbas aut leporem citus
     uenator in campis niualis
      Haemoniae, daret ut catenis               20
fatale monstrum. Quae generosius
perire quaerens nec muliebriter
     expauit ensem nec latentes
     classe cita reparauit oras,
ausa et iacentem uisere regiam               25
uoltu sereno, fortis et asperas
     tractare serpentes, ut atrum
     corpore conbiberet uenenum,
deliberata morte ferocior:
saeuis Liburnis scilicet inuidens               30
     priuata deduci superbo,
     non humilis mulier, triumpho.
nunc: emphatic! Now at this very moment the news has come to us!
bibo: to drink
pulso: to beat
tellus, telloris, f: earth, ground
Saliaribus dapibus: the Salii were a class of 12 priest who held in the first of March excessive feasts with wild dancing and lavish meals to honor to god Mars (the month March is of course dedicated to the god Mars).
pulvinar, -aris: couch. At the feast of the Salii statues of the gods were place on couches to accentuate their presence.
nunc…tempus erat:  the combination of nunc and erat is awkward. The most easy solution is to take it as `now, it was already time that the Salii etc.’. or simply translate is as tempus est.
antehac: before
nefas: shameful, not done
depromo: to bring forward from
Caecubum (vinum): the best wine came from Caecubum , a plain of Lacium.
cella: store-room
Capitolium:  the temple of Juppiter at Rome
ruinas funus et = ruinas et funus
regina dementes ruinas: many commentators take this as an enallage (an adjective belonging to one noun, but in effect qualifying an other noun) so we should understand regina demens ruinas, but in my opinion there is nothing wrong with `crazy downfall/ ruining’. Everyone understands that these ruinas are dementes because of the madness of Cleopatra.
ruina: downfall
funus,  –us: death, destruction
parabat,  imperfectum de conatu, so not provided, but tried/planned to prepare.
contaminato cum grege turpium morbo virorum  =  cum contaminato grege virorum morbo turpium. The whole phrase expresses Horace’s disgust for the eunuchs –  viri  turpes morbo –  of the Egyptian court.
grex, grecis: herd
turpis: shameful
morbus: disease  (often was sexual connotations, like here)
quidlibet: whatever
impotens: unable to control herself
ebrius: drunk
minuo: lessen, diminish
Sed…..Caesar: two things brought her back from her furor: the fact that hardly one ship of her fleet escaped fire and Octavian chasing her.
vix: hardly
sospes ab: saved from
lymphaticus: intoxicated
Mareotico (vino) excellent wine from Alexandria
redigo: bring back
volo:  to fly, flee (Cleopatram volantem)
remus: oar
adurgeo: to pursue closely
accipiter: hawk
columba: dove
venator: hunter
lepor, –oris: hare
in campis niualis Haemoniae (= Thessaly): to describe the fields of Thessaly as covered with snow is a literary convention.
catena: chain
generosius perire quaerens: seeking to end more heroic (than being chained)
nec muliebriter expauit ensem: i.e. she was not afraid to die
muliebriter: womanly
expavesco – pavi: be afraid of
ensis: sword
latentes oras: coasts hidden (for the fleet of Octavian)
classis: fleet
reparo: here `to seek’. Instead of trying to hide herself at some distant coast, Cleopatra returned to Egypt.
audeo –  ausus sum: to dare,  ausa (est)
iacentem regiam: her palace (= power) in ruins
vultus – us: face
asperasperi: rough, wild, dangerous
tracto: to handle
ateratri: black
conbibo: to drink. There are various versions about Cleopatra’s death. The most well-known is that she  let herself be bitten by two snakes.
deliberata ferocior morte: as the metre shows, deliberata goes withmorte (the final a is long, so ablative): she was very much spirited for
deliberatus: not  deliberated, but decided
saeuis Liburnis inuidens priuata deduci superbo triumpho: the subject is invidens. This takes the dative saevis Liburnis.  privata  is predicate to invidens.  The remainder is what Cleopatra is invidens.
Liburnis (navibus): Liburnian ships are a kind of small and fast vessels, extremely useful for operating in coastal waters. They played an important role in setting the ships of Mark Antony and Cleopatra to fire.
scilicet: of course
invideo: literally `to look upon’ in the sense of `to cast an evil eye upon’, then  `to envy, refuse’
privo: to deprive, bereave,  privata (regno) `deprived of her kingdom’
deduco: to lead back
superbo triumph: dative of direction = ad superbum triumphum
triumpho: a Roman commander was allowed to have a triumph, a procession through Rome at which the enemies taken captive where shown and especially their leader was shown in humiliating circumstances.
Here is a link to a translation:

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Love Song for Words, By Iraqi poet: Nazek al-Malaikah



Why do we fear words

When they have been rose-palmed hands,

fragrant, passing gently over our cheeks,

and glasses of heartening wine

sipped, one summer, by thirsty lips?


Why do we fear words

when among them are words like unseen bells,

whose echo announces in our troubled lives

the coming of a period of enchanted dawn,

drenched in love, and life?

So why do we fear words?


We took pleasure in silence.

We became still, fearing the secret might part our lips.

We thought that in words laid an unseen ghoul,

crouching, hidden by the letters from the ear of time.

We shackled the thirsty letters,

We forbade them to spread the night for us

as a cushion, dripping with music, dreams,

and warm cups.


Why do we fear words?

Among them are words of smooth sweetness

whose letter have drawn the warmth of hope from two lips,

and others that, rejoicing in pleasure

have waded though momentary joy with two drunk eyes.

Words, poetry, tenderly

turned to caress our cheeks, sounds

that, asleep in their echo, lies a rich color, a rustling,

a secret ardor, a hidden longing.


Why do we fear words?

If their thorns have once wounded us,

then they have also wrapped their arms around our necks

and shed their sweet scent upon our desires.

If their letters have pierced us

and their face turned callously from us

then they have also left us with an oud in our hands.

And tomorrow they will shower us with life.

So pour us two full glasses of words!


Tomorrow we will build ourselves a dream-nest of words,

high, with ivy trailing from its letter.

We will nourish its buds with poetry

and water its flowers with words.

We will build a balcony for the timid rose

with pillars made of words,

and a cool hall flooded with deep shade,

guarded by words.


Our life we have dedicated as a prayer

To whom will we pray…but to words?

Translated from Arabic

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A Damascene Moon, by Nizar Qabbani

Green Tunisia, I have come to you as a lover
On my brow, a rose and a book
For I am the Damascene whose profession is passion
Whose singing turns the herbs green
A Damascene moon travels through my blood
Nightingales… and grain… and domes
From Damascus, jasmine begins its whiteness
And fragrances perfume themselves with her scent
From Damascus, water begins… for wherever
You lean your head, a stream flows
And poetry is a sparrow spreading its wings
Over Sham… and a poet is a voyager
From Damascus, love begins… for our ancestors
Worshipped beauty, they dissolved it, and they melted away
From Damascus, horses begin their journey
And the stirrups are tightened for the great conquest
From Damascus, eternity begins… and with her
Languages remain and genealogies are preserved
And Damascus gives Arabism its form
And on its land, epochs materialize

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