I divide the days of the lord
Into sunlit and sunless
I found joy in the first of these
Delight and peace of mind

Yet the sun has been gone for months
And I have no veil to delude me
No memory of rites to inspire me
Nor even the remnants of a dream
To take my mind off this

My days without a shadow
And persist
Until I’m worn out by my lot
By my division of the days of the lord

Now I divide the days of the lord
Into ordinary and others that are also ordinary
With time I grow used to being
The same in the one and the other

Translation of "Qismatī fī Ayyām Ar-Rabb." Copyright Tarek Eltayeb. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2011 by Kareen James Abu-Zeid. All rights reserved.

أقسّمُ أيامَ الرَّبِّ إلى
شَمْسِيَّةٍ ولا شَمسية
أكونُ مرحًا
مُنشرحًا مُرْتَـاحًا في الأولى
..  ..  ..
لكنِّي مُنْذُ شُـهُورٍ في الأخرى
ولا قناعَ يُسْعِفُني بوهمٍ
ولا ذاكرةٍ بتقليدٍ تُلهِمُني
أو حتى بالحلم

أيامٌ لا ظِلَّ لي فيها
حتى أزهقَ من قِسمتي
بين أيام الربّ
..  ..  ..
الآنَ أقسّمُ أيامَ الربِّ
إلى عاديَّةٍ وأخْرَى عادية
أُعَوِّدُ نفسي مع الوقتِ أنْ أكُونَ
في الأخْرَى مِثْلَ الأولى
(فايترزفيلد، شمال النمسا، 24. 12. 2000)

Tarek EltayebTarek Eltayeb

Tarek Eltayeb was born to Sudanese parents in Cairo in 1959. He has been living in Vienna since 1984. After studying at the Institute for Economic Philosophy of Vienna’s University of Economics, he is currently teaching at three universities in Austria. He has been writing since 1985 and has so far published two novels, two collections of short stories, five collections of poems, and one play in Arabic. His books have been published in German, English, Italian, French, Spanish, Macedonian, Romanian and Serbian translations. His poems have appeared in different languages in various literary anthologies, magazines, and journals worldwide.

He has been granted numerous major fellowships, including the Elias Cannetti Fellowship of the City of Vienna in 2005, and was awarded the International Grand Prize for Poetry 2007 at the International Festival Curtea de Argeş in Romania. 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 at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. His last two poetry collections have been published in Beirut in 2010 (We Sold the Ground and Were Happy with the Dust) and in Cairo in 2011 (Not Sin). He has presented his work at many international literature festivals.

photo by Hans Labler

Translated from ArabicArabic by Kareem James Abu-ZeidKareem James Abu-Zeid

Half American and half Egyptian by blood, Kareem James Abu-Zeid is an award-winning translator of poets and novelists from across the Arab world. His most recent book-length translations include Najwan Darwish's Nothing More to Lose (New York Review of Books), Dunya Mikhail's The Iraqi Nights (New Directions), and Rabee Jaber's The Mehlis Report (New Directions). He has received a Lannan Foundation residency and a Fulbright research fellowship, among other honors, and received Poetry magazine's 2014 translation prize. He is currently writing a book entitled Lighting the Mind: A History of Psychedelic Literature from the Rig Veda to the Present Day, which is doubling as his PhD dissertation at UC Berkeley. He also works as a freelance translator of French and German texts, as well as a freelance editor of English texts. His own interests are moving increasingly in the direction of spirituality and the nature of consciousness: he practices various forms of Buddhist meditation and spends several weeks each year on silent retreats.