La Shay Maktoub


La Shay Maktoub_compressed

This is the work of the incredibly talented Beth Robb, the Girl With the Curl, whose art can be accessed by clicking on the picture.

I spent eight years of my life learning and working with the Arabic Language and it is one of the most beautiful in the world for expressing feeling and emotion. This was my first attempt to create a bilingual poem based around a favorite saying of a Lebanese friend. 

A café by the corniche,  looking out on an Azure sea

In the Paris of the Levant, my friend turned and said to me

La shay maktoub,

Nothing is written

How smitten was I by these words

When I first heard him say he refused to bow

To the fickle winds of fate

To let his country dance to the tunes of hate

That had played their vicious jig

Up and down the land for so many years

An earth watered with tears

For those countless lost lives,

Bereft wives, and children without kin

But he said ‘we cannot let the wickedness win’

La shay maktoub,

We don’t have to fight

To prove who is right

With the power of the gun

Aren’t we one in the eyes of

God, Allah, Jehovah, call him what you will

No matter what text you read, to kill

Is forbidden, to love divine

So let’s sup the wine of

Peace and cast aside the cup with the bitter dregs of war

And speak of it no more

La shay maktoub,

We don’t have to despise

Those who see the world through different eyes

There are as many paths to God

As grains of sand on a beach

And we all have things of worth to teach

And learn from strangers

Difference does not have to mean danger

I sing in Arabic, make love in French

Converse in English with all manner

Of people, whether they worship neath a minaret or a steeple

La shay maktoub,

For didn’t God

Give us free will, so we could choose

That we might know what it means to win

Or lose, to be fickle or have faith

Live in contentment or chase the

Flickering wraith of monetary gain

That leads to a barren plain filled with objects

But no friends,

Doesn’t he want us to make

Amends for the evil that others do

To be the glue that binds,

That makes a society kind?


He finished, and lit a cigarette

Sipped his coffee, his face etched

With a mix of hope and regret at

All he wished for and all he had seen,

I would that his words had been a prophecy

And not a dream unattainable,

For the cruel years since have proved how fallible

His desire for a better life was

Because? To hell with because!

All these clever reasons make my head spin

The horrid truths that violence always wins!

To this day, his mantra echoes

In my ear, to look past fear and dream the dream forbidden

Trust in love,

La shay maktoub,

Nothing is written.

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