Mostafa Ebada – Smile, O Crow

Ebada LE P&W June 2024

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing June 2024.

Smile, O Crow, poem by Mostafa Ebada

 Translated from Arabic to English by Dr. Salwa Gouda.

Smile, O Crow

I appear melancholic in the photos
‎Asleep or devoid of expression
The light fights me, and the eye of the camera
It always seems like this
‎And it repeats on every occasion
‎So my eyes appear closed
‎My shoulders like an empty hanger
And my heart is filled with crowds
On the wedding night
‎The photographer whispered in my ear
‎Smile, O Crow
Do not darken your event
“The One who dwells in the heavens laughs”
So I made wings and feathers
And lived, as if I lived, among butterflies
And smiled
And when I owned
The first camera in my life, as a gift
I took a picture of myself in front of a mirror
I contemplated my face and rejoiced like “Narcissus”
But I forgot to press
The “capture” button
So the whole moment was lost.


I couldn’t this time
Turn anger into a poem
Or make sadness a song for the sorrowful
I am just a resilient man today
Only nodding
If the wind passed by him, he overflowed
And if a scent approached, he drew near
I am a man today
Who got his full share of the night
He doesn’t want poetry or immortality
He just wants the scent of your armpits
And the scent of desire or the sound of blood
Today, the angel left me
And I want to regain my wings
That the birds stole
To flap the air above your bare back
Then jump into the water
Today, the angel left me
Abdel Halim Hafez* drove him away
The poetry and the deferred dreams drove him away
The man who went to the end of the earth
Collecting the clouds and the wind
And when he messaged “Drew Barrymore”
She replied to him
And when “Anne Hathaway” greeted him
She guessed he was crazy
Who believed in a moment that he was a prophet
And that no one
Will shout in his face again:
Smile, O Crow


Do you remember the handkerchief
I placed under your armpit?
I found it yesterday among the papers
Surrounded by books
But it is still as fresh as it was
And your scent lingers
The handkerchief is still alive
I am the man who met a woman
With nine children
And when she remembered it
She scoffed at herself and murmured:
What a stubborn crow you are
If I leave you
Who will prove that femininity is eternal
Or point to the long road
That we left without adventure?


I was an ordinary person
Waking up at eight
Escaping from the sun’s heat
And fearing the howling of people
Taking care of his harmful herbs alone
Covering every corner of the places
Here the waiter deceived us
Here I sniffed my fingers after a touch
I stand in front of the shops
Buying plates and knives
And knowing the difference between one knife and another
To protect Rua’s fingers
This veil is suitable for her while she prays
And these are bags for storing clothes
I was an ordinary person
Not thinking about sin
As soon as I leave the house
Preferring the metro like office pens
Whoever walks
Or sits in the nearest “small cafe”
Thinking of a poem or a trick to meet the forbidden
When did the light breeze start
And the trees replaced the forests?
Who changed me?
Who inspired the cloud to quarrel?
How does time deny me?
And everything is like a bitter echo
Who made me that strange father?
The prophet whose back was peeled
By the whip of love.


Do not be harsh
Let the lens alone see me
Allow the glass the freedom of sorrow
That shadow that appears
Before you now, without metaphor or prophecy
Loves small cafes
Walks from street to street
To write his secret history
And how many praises in a day
How can you define my features?
And how much sorrow behind contentment
Do not be harsh
Let the lens alone see me
Let the hand of man be neutral
This is a thirst with no water
So do not whisper to me:
Smile, O Crow.

*Abdel Halim Hafez: a famous Egyptian singer.

© Mostafa Ebada

Mostafa Ebada (1965) is an Egyptian journalist, poet, essayist, and critic. He works as the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Al-Ahram – Arabi Magazine. He is also the cultural advisor to some of the most important Egyptian publishing houses, such as The Egyptian Lebanese House, Al-Mahrousa Center, and Dar Batana. Furthermore, he published more than 10 books in different creative genres, such as poetry collections and cultural and literary studies.

Dr. Salwa Gouda is an Egyptian literary translator, critic, and academic at the English Language and Literature Department at Ain-Shams University. She holds a PhD in English literature and criticism. She received her education at Ain-Shams University and California State University in San Bernardino. She has published several academic books, including “Lectures in English Poetry, and “Introduction to Modern Literary Criticism” and others. She has also contributed to the translation of “The Arab Encyclopedia for Pioneers,” which includes poets and their poetry, philosophers, historians, and men of letters, under the supervision of UNESCO. Additionally, her poetry translations have been published in various international magazines.

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