Ahmad Al-Shahawy – Three Poems

Alshahawy LE P&W July 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing July 2023

Three poems by Ahmad Al-Shahawy.

Salwa GoudaTranslated from Arabic by Dr. Salwa Gouda.

All These Daggers in my Head

The door is half-asleep
No lock for it.
I am not afraid
But I fear the night
When it gets drunk.

The dinosaur passed
And it didn’t look at me
As if he forgot me
Or as if I fell from its wicker basket.

I saw the light that came from afar
As blood flowing from the neck of the night.

The dinosaur entered to bathe.
One of his habits is to stay
Under water for a long time
Recounting his memories
And whispering with what are in his head
And roasting his delusions on charcoal
And boiling illusions before it becomes
A poem without ends
And smiling at the obsessions stored
In the refrigerator at home
And moaning for the fallen leaves
From the garden trees.

It’s one o’clock,
The dinosaur did not

Ask me about the time.
He did not ask for a pen
To write his autobiography in exile.

My head is not a battlefield
Or the land of a race
Between warring tribes.
Where do horse riders come from?
Where do criminals come from
To occupy every inch of it?

Where does the notoriety,
The astray and those who drink
Nitric acid come from?

Where do the sounds come from?
From their throats?
Or from the blades of swords that
Slaughter mercilessly
In battles we did not fight?

My head is jammed
The occupiers are in its minarets
Or sleep in the streets.
I cannot admit what I am going through.
Despite the crowd of villains
My head is still generous in receiving them.

Is my head worth burning?
I -the stranger?
Or those who came from afar

To spoil my life?

Who put all these daggers in my head
Until it became blind areas
Devoid of light?
I am not the emperor of god
To stick blades in my mind
And who poured the coffee of illusion
Over two decades in my brain?
Who leaves horses to run
And the butterflies to flicker in my sky
And the bees to buzz inside me
And serpents to spread their
Poison in my tongue.
And the falcons came from an ancient world
To snipe me in a sleep
And elephants to trample me in the dream.
Death became easier
And I listen to its music
As it is running into my water.

Neither You nor the Night Sleeps

Does the dream die
If it does not find a dreamer
Or flies through the air of
Rotten rooms
Drawing a question mark
And two exclamatory marks?

Sleep takes away the minds
Of the weary
Those who no longer differentiates
Between dreams and nightmares.

These are, then, delusions and sounds
Fighting in the brain
And nothing pleases the heart but
A sign from a palm whose embers
Are dancing in the morning.

Alone despite the millions that
Crossed the streets of his head.
Secluded in the middle of the
Heads that overlook him.

He does not see me
He does not even see his own
Image in the mirrors that stifle the walls.
As if the brain hates mirrors in summer
And it retires from seeing them in winter.

For mirrors are nothing but our image
When we reduce the world to
A sentence that has no noun or verb.

The unknown who attacks your
Head farm
Reaps the harvest,
Steals the meanings.
He has no name or family.
There must be an invention to
Assassinate him at night
Or at least dissolve it in patience acid
Which I carry as an amulet
Or expel him-if I am not successful-
Out of the country.
Oh, if you tell me his name?
And where did he come from?
I would have pushed any
Harm against you.
I planted a tree in front of the house
That only bears berries and gold.

You only finished one bottle
Of a lifetime’s wine
And when you are on the way to
The drunkenness of the second
It was broken in your right hand.
While you were getting ready
To borrow the third from the stranger’s shop,
The vineyard of the sky fell at your feet.

Since then you have been
Trying to plant new vines
In lands you do not know
Who stole it from you at night
When I am away.
I am thinking of stopping walking alone in the parks
So that the three foxes that
You carried as a child would not
Go out and ask about you.

There are many bad days
They need books to monitor
But the worst day was
The day I fell weak
No pocket
No bed
No way leads to me
No woman in my head
That I desire
And no strangers like me cheer for failure.
Nothing but crossing into the
Other world to the sun.
Nothing but broken mirrors
That show the ugliness in the city
And blocked streets
Where the dogs do not come out from unharmed
As they pass between fires waiting for the eaters.

Neither the night nor you sleep
No bed there
No satisfied land

And you are not seeing in front
Of you but two paths
A path drawn by your hands in
The composition notebook which
Was far from the dream
And a last way lost from your hands
It only leads to regret.

Where there is no Way and no Brain

Has anyone changed my head
Or taken it hostage
For the money I do not have?
Did a villain afflict it?
Whom I knew?

I have changed a lot
Crowded with demons, jinni
And bloodthirsty.
I look over my head
From a small balcony
Still awake in the neck.
I do not know the ways.
I lost places in my brain.
The streets do not salute me
And do not hand itself over to me.

My head that turned so much
And roamed the world was damaged
As if I lost it in a gamble
Where I do not know the rules.

Is this my head
Which I filled with poems
And texts of the dead?
Did the dead wake up in it?
Did they come for retribution?
I who lived and survived by them.

I was not a scoundrel with them.
I did not steal their eyes
Nor sell their bios to passers-by.

My head flew.
Nobody knows me in such a crowd.
Those I know will not believe my fate.
I wish it were stuffed with
A ton of straw or an acre of hay.
I would have managed to
Shake it off at night
And come back to me again.
But the scoundrels colonized it.
They poured the oils of their
Wickedness into it.
They gave their orders:
No sleeping Nor sitting
And eat a sea of fish.

I drink water and walk
Where there is no way in the brain
And where there is no way and brain.

© 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. Five of his literary works were nominated in the long list of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award in the branch of literature including his novel The Magician’s Hijab 2022.

Salwa Gouda is an Egyptian academic 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. She also contributed to the translation of The Arab Encyclopedia for Pioneers including poets and their poetry, philosophers, historians and men of letters.

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