Mishka Mojabber Mourani is a true Mediterranean. She was born in Alexandria, Egypt, of a Greek mother and Lebanese father. By the age of six she spoke several languages, including French, Greek, Arabic and Italian, but English was the one most used in her multicultural family. Her love of reading and of writing began at an early age. At the age of 10 she moved to Beirut with her family, and a few years later they emigrated to Sydney, Australia, where she finished high school and joined Sydney University. She returned to Beirut and completed a BA and MA in English Literature at the American University of Beirut.
Mojabber spent the bulk of the 15 years of the Lebanese War in Beirut, teaching English and working as an educational consultant for International College. She helped set up schools and training teachers in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Oman, Syria, and Abu Dhabi before being appointed Director of the Elementary School. In 1989 she edited and co-authored a series of books on the teaching of English entitled Highlighting the English Language Program.
In 1991 Mishka Mojabber Mourani published a poetry collection – LEST WE FORGET: LEBANON 1975-1990 and a short story in HIKAYAT: SHORT STORIES BY LEBANESE WOMEN [Telegram books, UK] in 2006.
Her recent writing deals with the themes of war, identity, exile and gender issues. In that context she She published BALCONIES: A MEDITERRANEAN MEMOIR [Dar An-Nahar, Beirut 2009] and her work has appeared in LEBANON THROUGH WRITERS’ EYES – an anthology published by Eland, UK in 2009, and, more recently, HABITER BEYROUTH? PARCOURS D’ECRITURE [Assabil, Beirut 2010], and LA MEDITERRANEE AU CARREFOUR DES MOTS [Assabil-Kitabat 2011]. Also in 2011 she translated to English FAISEUR DE REALITES [Maker of Realities] – French poems by Antoine Boulad inspired by the works of Mohammad Al Rawas.
Most recently, Mishka Mojabber Mourani co-authored a poetry collection: ALONE, TOGETHER [Kutub, Beirut 2012], a project in which Aida Y. Haddad translated Mourani’s poetry from English to Arabic, and vice versa. The excerpts included here are from that book.
KUTUB ONLINE BOOKSTORE: ALONE, TOGETHER
She talks to her in English,
She reads to her in French,
She prays for her in Arabic,
She dances with her in Greek,
But she lullabies her
In the language of her grandmother.
The sway of ageless chant
The whisper of languorous jasmine
The scent of mythical thyme
The caress of the shadows in an olive grove
The promise of warm bread
The sweetness of consecrated wine
The memory of wordless song
The secret language of serenity
She stands at the window looking out at the storm brewing at sea.
She turns around suddenly.
She sweeps everything off the table: the box of pictures, the letters,
the two empty goblets of wine.
She grabs her jacket, her umbrella, her glasses.
She storms out of the apartment and takes the stairs.
She runs down the third floor, the second floor, the first floor.
She stalks out of the building and heads for her car.
She stops and puts her hand in her pocket.
She brings out her wallet, a stick of gum, her wedding band.
She fumbles for her keys.
She heads back into the building, and takes the elevator.
It climbs past the first floor, the second floor, the third floor.
She rings the doorbell once.
She rings the doorbell twice, three times.
The apartment is silent
But for the sound of lightning, of thunder, of rain.
When I write
When I write jacaranda
I see the empty courtyard
Foundering in purple
On a morning of war
Normal life entombed
When I write jasmine
I smell the scent of a memory
From a parched tree
Stripped of its leaves
In an empty, absent space
When I write bougainvillea
I am deafened by the clamor of the empty school
Embracing the red of a perfect autumn morning
That I can not but love to distraction
When I write frangipani
I tread on the creamy velvet of a first walk
In the sleepless neighborhood
Just after the shelling stopped
When I write honeysuckle
I taste the drop of nectar
Hidden in the ivory filament
That catches me in fragrante delicto
AND SHE WHO …
And she who waits in vain for the return of an emigrant son
And she who goes abroad taking her city with her;
And she who lays her head on the steering wheel caught in the tentacles of a Beirut
And she who looks at her watch yet again and waits for the result of her
And she whose stethoscope examines an anxious old man;
And she who is told that her child inherits her blood but not her nationality;
And she who plays soccer with her older brother and lets him win;
And she who counts wedding anniversaries that didn’t happen;
And she who left her two-year-old son in the care of her sister in a
And she who waits for the school bus, her book bag as heavy as her
And she who, surprised, discovers her mother
And she who, surprised, discovers she has become her mother;
And she who sips sweet lemonade fragrant with orange blossoms by the sea;
And she who jogs mercilessly impervious to the sumptuous Mediterranean;
And she who delves into the palm of her hand to look for her errant destiny;
And she who is surprised that her lover of twenty years ago can still hurt her;
And she who applies a mask to her face to erase the wrinkles of her soul;
And she who waters the riotous jasmine blooms in winter on her
And I who have known them all
And I who have been them.
He crossed the line
When his helplessness became impossible
When the impossible became an option
When his imagination reached out to his reality
When his reality defined his anger
When his anger defied his resignation
All poems on this post: © Mishka Mojabber Mourani
Published with the permission of Mishka Mojabber Mourani