When I was a diplomat in Britain
Thirty years ago
My mother would send letters at the beginning of Spring
Inside each letter
A bundle of tarragon.
And when the English suspected my letters
They took them to the laboratory
And turned them over to Scotland Yard
and explosives experts.
And when they grew weary of me, and my tarragon
They would ask: Tell us, by God
What is the name of this magical herb that has made us dizzy?
Is it a talisman?
A secret code?
What is it called in English?
I said to them: It’s difficult for me to explain
For tarragon is a language that only the gardens of Sham speak.
It is our sacred herb,
Our perfumed eloquence.
And if your great Shakespeare had known of tarragon
His plays would have been better.
My mother is a wonderful woman and she loves me greatly
And whenever she missed me
She would send me a bunch of tarragon
Because for her, tarragon is the emotional equivalent
To the words: my darling.
And when the English didn’t understand one word of my poetic argument
They gave me back my tarragon and closed the investigation.
from Damascus, What are you doing to me? by Nizar Qabbani