Hani Al-Selwy – What the sleeper does not see

Salwy LE P&W 7 Nov-Dec 2023

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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Seven Nov-Dec 2023.

What the sleeper does not see,  poems by Hani Al-Selwy.

What the sleeper does not see

Let us say, it is a game
And we go flying
It is known that drowsiness did not rob anyone
And the eyelids are not a bank or a necklace


My fortieth grandfather who died drowned


My grandfather who slept for a long time
– On the shortness he was born with in the following –
He found his inflated robes on the beach
After his resurrection, it was as if he had drowned only two days ago
He found them warm with proper trousers
He found his pockets and snakes full of jewels and documents
His bond turned into wine. His beloved’s head was a white candle
Waiting, her tears are rubies
And her stories are bread

Let us say:
No one doubted
The integrity of sleep as faulty or biased
And that my grandmother did not stand for years
On the beach until her head caught fire
That the carpenter’s door was removed in the cold darkness
By someone that did not leave behind
A smelly clue.

Let us say:
Governments do not know banditry and pickpocketing.
Presidents are unable to sleep because they are awake
For our interests and the people…people are always safe
The media always distorts efforts and achievements
With the relentless support of those stalking us
Enemies of the nation and prosperity
Let us do what is right
Sleep has never caught the eye from the kohl jar
And it did not pop with its secret key a lock.


Trust this child

His waters are innocent and transparent
Rely on his nectar
And drown smiling
In confidence
As sleep
Did not rob

A Prophecy
“They will recognize us”

Even, even me, even. Even I
Even when I put my hand on the Qur’an
And swear, in my cheap homeland, I will not swallow dogma
The giblets of the Republican bird and bow to civilization.

They will recognize us by our shaved moustache
By our noise and silence: You repeat the whistle, the trap is
Affectionate and I eat the acidity of the apple and spit out my liver
You are chewing Issa Ibn Hisham while I am listening
You count on flies and I am busy eavesdropping
They will recognize us. I told you repeatedly that
They will get to know us. They will immerse us in duty

You think they would not recognize me chewing
Issa Ibn Hisham and you are listening
I repeat the trap and you spit out your spleen along with the apple
If my pubes had not sprouted last night, they would have only recognized me.

Like you, I would love to go to the army
But my mother wants me here. She wants me a university professor
Do not be surprised. My mother wanted me in many jobs:
She wanted me a sculpture and after a year of seeing
The shattered nose of the Sphinx, she changed the plan
And this is not the first time she has gone off script
-Let it settle into your consciousness if you are still interested-
She first wanted me a video engineer, then a teacher
Then an Abbasid caliph in Andalusia, then a space agency
When a loan thorn pricked her thumb, she wanted me a woodcutter
When she missed the dawn prayer, she wanted me an automatic alarm clock

Even, even me, even. Even I
Even when I put my hand on the Qur’an
And swear, in my cheap homeland, I will not swallow dogma
The giblets of the Republican bird and bow to civilization.

But she did not think about admitting me to the infantry or the hospital
She often changed my desired profession and changed my appearance with it
She wasted the family’s supply of tar on my body
She often treated what I painted of leeks on my beard randomly and sarcastically
Rushing to blackness and manhood
She repeatedly scolded my father’s eyebrows. She Revealed his dreams:
He wishes a president of the republic would emerge from my shirt
At least a general who moves ministers like pawns
A prime minister first or a fortress that protects the castle
He wants me all of that and she wants me to be a romantic poet
A prophet lining his socks with his hands

I told you:
They will recognize us, you loud talker
But you refused except raising your voice and speaking out.
I told you
They will get to know us
We do not want her body to ossify in plaster, the eloquent shivers
He is not broken to immerse him in convulsion and tie him in the stiffener.

Engrave his ID on marble please
Baptize him in books and gardens not in television and shuttle
Tours of tyrants: She opens her mouth flushing.
This soldier is not unknown. Not a nobody. And not a thumb
This dirt is known. Common this majestic
Not a monument this soldier
Not anonymous.

© Hani Al-Selwy

Hani Al-Selwy is a Yemeni poet, writer, and academic at the University of Taiz. He is a member of the Union of Yemeni Authors and Writers. Also, he is the founder of the New Text Forum – Beyond Prose Poetry – Cairo. He has published nearly nine poetry collections, in addition to narratives and other critical publications. He has won a number of awards, including the Sanusi Prize. His poetry has been translated into some languages. A number of studies were also written about his experience, including the book: The Aesthetics of Poetic Modernity (Hani Al-Selwy as an example).

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