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cotton bolls

Cotton bolls hanging from the plants

I began as a bloom of cotton,
outdoors. Then they brought me to a room
where they washed me. Then the hard strokes
of the carder’s wife. Then another woman
spun thin threads, twisting me
around her wheel. Then the kicks
of the weaver’s loom made cloth,
and on the washing stone, washermen
wet and slung me about
to their satisfaction, whitened me
with earth and bone,
and cleaned me to my own
amazement. Then the scissors
of the tailor, piece by piece,
and his careful finishing work.

Now at last, as clothes,
I find You and freedom.
This living is so difficult
before one takes your hand.
Whatever work I’ve done,
whatever I have thought,
was praise with my body
and praise hidden
inside my head.

(translated by Coleman Barks)

Find the rest of Barks’ translations here:

Another poem

Lalla’s life

Bibliography and further reading about Lalla Arifa:

Lalla Arifa
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