Narcissus and Echo: An Arab Girl’s Greek Tragedy

Watching you from afar, between trees and water,
Praising you from within, your beauty echoes,
Barred by the chains of my sin, my voices falter,
Locked in my verdurous prison, you arose.

Why, oh beautiful being, do you shun me?
Why, because my virtues tarnish your glass?
Why, oh beautiful being, don’t you see me?
You in your solitary, and I in the mass.

“Nymph, remain in your shelter and I in mine,
Trust in Fortune and remain with your kind,
For in this water, a greater beauty lies
This pristine, this untainted, this one divine.”

In our eternal devotion to objects of our own,
Beauty cankered — yours to flower, mine to stone.

[Backstory: My very good friend came over today and, as soon as she plopped down on my couch, she received a text message from her first cousin that consisted of three parts; the first was an “I need a favor from you, ya bint khali,” the second was a screenshot of his class syllabus with an assignment description, and the third, a screenshot of an email from his professor warning his students against waiting until the last minute to complete this assignment.

In the typical Arab state of wastas and decayed morality, we were being commissioned to cheat. And, being two English teachers who love poetry and have a mild obsession with canonical love stories, we gave in — if only to liberate ourselves from our sage-like disposition and just position ourselves as students for the first time in a long, long time.  All pedagogical integrity aside, the assignment prompted the students [us] to write a Shakespearean sonnet about a Greek myth. Therefore, Narcissus and Echo it had to be. This is the product of an hour spent talking about the myth, our own love lives, the societal “honor” of chastity as well as that of beauty, and Disney movies — naturally. Definitely not a finished product but we were quite proud.]

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