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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing January 2023
The Margin is an Avenger, poems by Ahmad Al-Shahawy.
Translated from Arabic by Salwa Gouda.
The Margin is an Avenger
Nothing but loss
No door opens.
The people here have
No heart or mind.
They are more rigid than stones
That do not belong to them
And worse than a king of the bottom
Yearning for him.
Open a door to the soul
Enter a mind you’ve never seen before
Run away for a walk
Rule a land you are renouncing
That witnesses an opposition against a stranger
Who looks like crows croaking by your bed.
All disappointments are chasing your
Shadow on the street.
The memory faded
And it was filled with the treasures
Of the first years in the village.
No one in the narrow world
Offers you a hand to
Rise from the stumbling
Blocks of the sun
Or to escape from the mistakes of
The street and the people.
I am nothing but a speechless
Who slept close to the night
Without an awakening moon
Or a sun that washed the soul of
Your hands from the dirt
Stuck to the edge of a
Bird above the head.
You came to escape from
The bottom that immersed all the people
But the bottom refused and took control.
He forgot that you are the son of the
Descendants of the earliest orphan.
You dreamt of a text that slept on
The doorsteps of the house
But the margin is vengeful
You fought wars that were not
Confined to guarding angels
But your demons wrote your loss
In a long forgotten notebook
And you stayed up damn nights alone
Without a supporter to help steal
Some light for you
And you walked to a coast
Of pleasures you did not know.
They did not come to wander near
Socotra dragon tree.
There is only evidence of murder
And people seek to be expelled
From false paradises
And turning a blind eye to
The braided despair
On the palms of blood.
Your violin strings are burnt.
You lost the melody that leads to
Your trees at night.
You sank and lost the scale in water
And no musical rhythm floats
To denote the body of music.
And like a dog that trampled hell
I went to enumerate the virtues of fire
Upon a mountain that quakes in you.
You have been praising in
The name of your father,
Perhaps he will come
From his grave at night
To plant trees that kill
The summer heat
To save your dog from
The neighbor’s poison.
The dog that knows all
That stays awake on the pages
Of your book
Until you finish the first
Text about a house
Where stray cats inhabit
And check your inner self in loss.
You are asked to throw your dice
May luck come to you
As a deposed king
Who was looking for
Places in you
To bury what remains
Of the memory.
Like Boiling Fire in Water
As simple as a busy street
As easy as ants wrestling with a drop of water
As tame as a long text without explanation
That penetrates every thick blackness
Out of all the rules of the people of heaven
And separated by the pedestrian path
Leading to his feet.
Beds expel him when he insults them
And when he puts fire in their fingers.
Sleep steals his dreams
And leaves him alone in the wild.
He wrestles with people from ages past
Who hurries towards the brain of God.
An old book on the history
Of the people of blood
Raging like fire in boiling water.
The owner of a strange narration
On a sheet of silence
The people are confused about its title.
Truly faithful to the masks of the ancients
And goes to the metaphors to fetch images.
Everything for him is like rushing water
And all in front of him the same.
All the words on the right are useless.
There is no thread in needles
To sew the heavens with
Nor a bamboo stick in front of his hand to strike
People of the wrongdoers.
Did he know that planets can sleep on his shirt?
And that the light of the sun shines
From the pockets of his brain
And other homes of a new inspiration
Time will build its windows in the distant void?
Did he know that, with the senses
The cracks of the earth perceive
The biography of the one walking on it?
No One Cares about the Murdered Inside Me
In my head
Fire ants walk.
I do not know their type or name.
They colonized me
As if I were Solomon
Or as if I were his vast land
Or as if he wanted to be
Next to Jinn in me.
I am not in the position of
Prophecy or kinship
And I have no possessions or miracles.
I hope the queens die
For the ants to depart.
I ask for deliverance from a distant god.
Came without permission.
I do not know the reason
Or the date for them.
If the whole world is standing
For me on the edge
They run in my veins
Like damaged blood.
I feel like a needle prick
Blocking my blood movement
And it does not find the place.
My head became the kernels
Of an orphan tree,
There is no place for me in eternity
With its long tongue-like a palm tree-
That crushes textile insects.
They do not go out of their homes
Nor afraid to be broken
As if they are proud of their surah
In the “holy Quran”
The guardians of the gates
Of my heaven failed
To close the space
In front of evil, Jinn, and demons
When they limp in my brain
As if there is no door to heaven above me
From it I ascend and evacuate the air.
I hate the dust of angels
Which licks my mind.
Ants blindfold my eyes
And obliterate my ears.
I do not like to being killed by
Ant wars inside me.
What hurts is that I became a battlefield
And no one cares about the murdered
While the killers are at large
Wandering the streets of my head.
Meteor shower hits my ground
And my medicine is to ignore any
Crawling or ants’ sounds.
I would not leave myself to the
One who hits more
I must resist.
A second chance is necessary.
There is no eternal darkness.
Death can even be defeated
By living as the trees which I have planted
Around my field taught me.
Someone is waiting for me to rejoice
But he is far away and I do not see him.
He will come so he told me
And the bed-whose sheets I chose-
Is longing for my head to sleep.
© Ahmad Al-Shahawy
Ahmad Al-Shahawy is an Egyptian poet and author of more than 20 books and poetry collections. His poems have been translated into many languages including French, Italian, English, Turkish and Spanish. He participated in many international poetry festivals organized in many countries of the world. Al-Shahawy was also the recipient of UNESCO literature award in 1995, and Cavafy Poetry award in 1998.His poetry collection “I DO NOT See Me” was nominated in the long list of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award in the branch of literature.
Translated from Arabic by Salwa Gouda.
Salwa Gouda is an Egyptian university staff member at The English Language and Literature Department in Ain-Shams University. She is a PhD holder in English literature and criticism. She received her education at Ain-Shams University and at California State University in San Bernardino. She has published many academic books including Lectures in English Poetry, Introduction to Modern Literary Criticism and others.