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Osama Esber – You Will Keep Running Across the Borders

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing April 2021.

Osama Esber, born in Syria in 1963, is a widely published author of poetry and short stories, as well as a major translator of English writings into Arabic. He currently lives in exile in the United States, where he arrived initially in 2012 as a visiting scholar at the University of Chicago. Now living in California, Esber is also an editor for the Arab Studies Institute’s Tadween Publishing house and a host of Status, Jadaliyya’s audio-visual podcast, and associate editor in the Arabic Section of Jadaliyya. His most recent collection of poetry is entitled `Ala turuqi al-bahariyya (My Seaside Paths, Jordan: Dar Khutut wa Zilal, 2020).

The original written in Arabic by Osama Esber has been translated into English by the him


You Will Keep Running Across the Borders

Perhaps you shall not find a shadow in the heat
and you will keep chasing a mirage
In a desert of your creation.
Perhaps your house shall vanish from its neighborhood
your neighborhood from its city
your city from its country
your country from the map.
Perhaps you shall gaze at shoreless seas
at springless waters
and mouthless rivers.
Perhaps you shall lose yourself in frozen lakes,
your prayers shall trap you.
your dreams shall catch you,
lead you to the door of nightmares,
and you shall miss the exit.
Perhaps you shall walk forward
without knowing if your feet are on a path.
Perhaps you shall not find for them a foothold.
Perhaps clouds shall rain stones over cities.
and you shall spend your life
under the illusion that you are loved.
Perhaps you shall live on the margins
thinking you are in the center.
Perhaps insomnia shall be your bed,
and you shall see metallic birds
lay bombs in their nests.
Perhaps you shall spend your days waiting,
you will eat while waiting,
drink while waiting,
make love while waiting,
wait while waiting.
Perhaps you shall continue to fill your cup
from an empty bottle,
and taste the void,
thinking it is wine.
Perhaps your soul shall escape your body
and live in another’s.
Perhaps you shall awaken
to find neither morning nor evening.
Perhaps the dead will leave their graves
to live in the air you breathe.
Perhaps you shall see their images plastered on walls,
their articles published in newspapers.
Perhaps they shall walk in your funeral
and dig your grave with their hands.
Perhaps you shall see them
sitting on a balcony of words
when you read the morning paper
maybe you will see their eyes glow and occupy yours
when you read your schoolbooks.
when you sleep, they shall ask you to dream for them.
Perhaps the dead are the living.
Perhaps a door will open
and the unexpected shall enter.
Perhaps you shall open your arms
and embrace a stranger.
Perhaps you shall think yourself alive
when you are dead.
and you shall remain a follower
In a country of followers and masters.
Perhaps your wound shall bleed, unhealed.
Perhaps you shall not find yourself,
or shall be fed words
meant to festoon your grave.
Perhaps you shall think you have wings
without raising your head to see if there’s a sky.
Perhaps your life shall become numbers,
you shall worship numbers.
the prophet’s revelation shall come in numbers,
from a sky that feeds on numbers.
You shall whisper numbers as you pray.
Perhaps you shall rise, suddenly,
hanging on the hair of the right path.
Perhaps it shall lead you to hell.
Perhaps paradise is behind you,
in a past life, and you are not aware.
Perhaps you are made of dreams,
those of a force yet unawakened.
Or, perhaps you are a nightmare which trapped creation.
or an unwritten myth,
or a written fabrication.
Perhaps you come in to life only in order to die.
Perhaps you die
in order to not understand what is happening.
Perhaps you shall remain in the same city,
sitting at the same bar,
repeating the same story
to those who do not listen.
Perhaps you shall migrate outside yourself,
outside your country,
outside others,
and yet remain among them as if you never left.
Perhaps your body shall transform into a machine
with a coin slot to operate it.
Perhaps you will live
on a single tablet for the rest of your life.
Perhaps you will move to another planet
when you cannot find a home on this one.
You shall be homeless on Mars,
or a vagabond on Jupiter.
Perhaps you will work as an Uber Spaceship pilot,
or an interstellar pizza deliveryman.
Perhaps you will be a lotto vendor
in a faraway galaxy.
Perhaps you shall return to your childhood
and be unable to recognize yourself.
Your hands will remain on buttons
and your eyes on screens,
perhaps you shall be unable to separate them.
Perhaps you shall remain hidden from others
and they will keep running away from you.
Perhaps cities’ streets
shall be deserted
and cafes will become monuments for the void.
Perhaps loneliness will grow like trees,
and boredom will become green like grass.
Perhaps boredom shall be squeezed like fruit,
its juice shall be drunk in waiting.
Perhaps the fungi of fear shall grow,
and the lichens of indifference shall bloom.
Perhaps humidity will blister your skin,
like it blisters the walls in your room.
Perhaps anxiety shall become a consolation,
and fear a drug.
Perhaps the statue of waiting
shall be worshipped like an idol.
Perhaps you shall hear voices in your head,
voices stripped of words,
and see around you words trembling in the cold.
Perhaps you will hear
the music of an instrument playing itself.
Perhaps books shall read themselves,
and news bulletins shall listen to themselves.
Perhaps fear will sit at bars and tell its stories.
Perhaps you shall go onto the streets of your city
and see the dead become the living,
some will walk,
some will sit in cars,
some will lie lifeless with cigarettes hanging from their mouths.
Perhaps you will walk and never arrive,
and when a bridge appears in front of you,
perhaps you will wonder what bridges are for
when kisses fade before they reach the lips,
when the heart stops beating at the height of its excitement,
when a hand is extended but left unshaken,
when memory becomes a hardware store,
when you spend your life
remembering only those you need something from,
when you walk as if you are on the edge of the abyss,
or sleep as if you are in a casket,
when the screen preaches to you like an imam.
Maybe you will not stop dreaming,
maybe you will increase the dosage of your dreams,
maybe your words will liberate themselves
and leave the corpse of language.
Maybe you will stand announcing you are not alone
and there are others approaching
and they are not ghosts.
Maybe you are not living an illusion.
and a time will come
when you shall leave your prison
knowing what liberates you.
Maybe you will keep running across borders.
without finding a country.


© Osama Esber