Tarek Eltayeb – The Donkey

Tarek Eltayeb LEP&W Sept-Oct V1 2022

Download PDF Here Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume One Sept-October 2022. 

The Donkey, poems by Tarek Eltayeb.

Translated from Arabic by Wolfgang Astelbauer.

The Donkey

With his crude hands
the man pulls
the donkey
from the womb’s shadows
into the red of the sun.

With his crude hands
the man drops
the sack, filled to bursting,
full force
onto the donkey’s back.

The man curses,
curses his father,
curses his grandfather.

Then a second sack,
a third,

I can’t see
the donkey’s legs

And God will Blow into the Fire

The sparrows’ and doves’ wings
will shiver with fear.
Flapping their wings,
they will circle in the gunpowder’s smoke.
Trembling, they’ll accumulate
more and more dirt.
When they land,
they will not find their branches.
For these dumb woodcutters
will have broken them off
and carried them up
to the summit of the mountain,
as a sacrifice.

The sparrows will devour
the doves,
the gunpowder will feed on
the sparrows,
and the woodcutters
with their crude, sore hands
will try to dispel the smoke
before they will trip over
the branches
of the lighted sacrificial offering.

God will
slowly descend
and blow into the fire.

I Have Tricked the Light

I could trick the light
so that I did not get a shadow,
became transparent,
the sun, the moon, and the light penetrating me
without having to overcome any hindrance or resistance,
and I left all things around me
as they were.
I thought
I had achieved something wonderful,
but nobody noticed,
nobody could see me,
everybody just ran into me
and was frightened.

This is why I started
jumping to and fro
like a grasshopper
in front of them.

When I hated
what I had done,
I wanted my shadow back,
but it was too late.

I turned into a frog,
then into a grasshopper,
then into a flea,
and, finally,
into a nothing.

Autumn Panic

Each preying eagle
passing by
in autumn
made the ants panic
with its shadow.
They got confused
when gathering supplies.

They began
to shrink back from the shadows of bees
and butterflies,
and watched out
for clouds even,
until they finally did not come out at all
when the sky was overcast.


Since these many hard words have been written,
these letters left unfinished or lost,
since the writing of my hair has begun
to lose its ink and fade,
since names sink deeper and deeper into my memory
and I must almost close my eyes
to see them,
since I have begun
paying attention to the shadow of the second hand,

since then I started to realize
the lost words,
the faded hair,
the names lost sight of,
I, grey and stooping,
started to at least pay attention
to these circular repetitions.

© Tarek Eltayeb

Tarek Eltayeb was born to Sudanese parents in Cairo in 1959. He has been living in Vienna since 1984. He has published five novels, two collections of short stories, five collections of poems, a play, an autobiography and a book of essays. His books had been translated into German, English, Italian, French, Spanish, Macedonian, Romanian and Serbian languages. In 2008, he was appointed Austrian Ambassador for the European Year for Intercultural Dialogue (EJID). In the same year, he received the Decoration of Honor for Services to the Republic of Austria. He is a faculty member of the International Writing Program (IWP) Between the Lines at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, USA. He was awarded the International Grand Prize for Poetry 2007 at the International Festival Curtea de Argeş in Romania. His awards include the Elias Cannetti Fellowship from the City of Vienna.

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