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176 article(s) translated from Arabic

She, You, and I

Darling, tell me that when we love, we’re not awaiting a reward or reciprocity. And that love is greatest when it’s fruitless, when feelings are more powerful, more real. What’s the point of love without suffering? Every time I contend with love, a new life is born in the fight. The anxiety I endure makes me feel my pulse, makes me feel I’m alive. I’m only happy when I’m seeking these things, not when I find them, because isn’t the footpath through...

Mass Grave

An Epitaph for all our Friends Denied a Tomb and especially for my Cousin, whose Body was Dumped in a Mass Grave They found my cousin’s body in a mass grave.  Our truck wasn't the only one turned away by this prison because it was overcrowded. Actually, many trucks, which were so crowded with men they swayed, were rejected by this prison. The guard repeated respectfully to each driver, “If I could, I would make room for your load.” Then the...

Anatomy of the Rose

When the rose perceived the distance between itself and the earth, it brought forth its thorns. When the rose realized that a single leg couldn’t take it anywhere, that it was voiceless and mostly had no echo, it thought of fragrance. The blooming petals: a navel. The stem: a rope that binds it to the earth’s deep womb. That rose will be born someday in a lover’s hand or between the shores of a book. © Soukaina Habiballah. By arrangement with the...

The Red Triangle Café

How I adore the café  door             there’s a newspaper             and a seat and, you know, I mean, that means I know             all the latest news. In and out flapping about             Waiter! one Lipton tea and my number . . . I dialed it on my...

Delusion

He left the house cursing everything at the top of his voice—from the two elderly people who had brought him into this rotten world in the first place to his sister who had married a French man, gone off with him to his country, and hadn’t kept her promise. He remembered what she’d said in the airport: “I only married this Christian for your sakes. One month, and you’ll have all the papers you need to all catch me up over there. Don’t worry!” He...

The Queue

Document No. 3 Examinations Conducted, Visible Symptoms, and Preliminary Diagnosis The patient is conscious, alert, and aware of his surroundings; blood pressure and pulse are normal; visible symptoms include: signs of choking and irritation to the nerves, blood surrounding entry and exit wounds caused by a [word crossed out], sign of recent abrasions and bruising on the back, pelvis, and forearm regions, [word crossed out; “injury” written above it] penetrating the pelvic...

I Will Leave, without Lying Down on the Dewy Grass Even Once

“So does this mean I’ll leave this world without lying down on the dewy grass even once?” “There are more important things than that to think about, actually, but if that’s what’s on your mind, you could still do it. You’ve got at least three weeks left.” “But there’d be no point now. I’m not going to.” I didn’t let him say anything else, and I left before he could start with the trite words of consolation. In...

Awaiting a Poem

They await you: The new poem They await your downpour through my soul My hands shaping your features I stand with my heart agape To observe this desolate world As it falls into ruin Blood covers everything Prayers no longer know Where to go I await you I listen for your cautious footfall Yes The world has become a graveyard But the sun rises The breeze caresses a girl’s cheek The sea does not forsake its blue The swallows tell me of my childhood Hidden beneath their wings And...

Solitary Confinement on the Seventh Floor

One day I’ll tear off my lips and eat them like candy. One day I’ll rip out my chest because I’m not an orphanage for gathering angels. One day I’ll remove the door and stand in its stead to stop myself from leaving for the hole in the world.

“Your Baby”

She felt like laughing. How could she laugh in that position, what would they say about her? It was the first time she’d ever felt the effects of local anesthesia. She’d heard dozens of stories about it, but she hadn’t expected it to be so ticklish, especially at the base of her spine. She wanted to search the faces of the doctors looming over her for a trace of forgotten laughter—perhaps the lines around their mouths would reveal some comedy, an excuse if she...

A Knockout Punch

When Adib saw the delegations of athletes waving to the applauding fans in the Moscow stadium, he sighed, I should have been there. He had promised himself a gold medal, and they had all expected one of him. He didn’t watch the rest of the opening ceremony on the TV. He went out into the alleyways of the Abeed district and disappeared in their shadows, walking. When he was thirteen years old, he thought he was a soccer player. He was considered the top young player in both the old...

Life in Mount Carmel

Though I’m right beside it, I can’t call out to the sea: neighbor, come join me for coffee. Instead, my other neighbor Carmel visits me through the window without my permission and never even once  tries to enter through the door (anyway, it owns the place). Sometimes church bells reach me from the depths of Wadi Nisnas, other times the morning call to prayer comes quietly from the Istiqlal Mosque (that the old breeze carries from Wadi Salib), the Baha’is keep...

Nom de Guerre: Butterfly

That evening, I was sitting on my bed. Tala was jumping up and down on her bed next to mine, making it squeak annoyingly. She was jabbering away but I wasn’t following what she was saying because I was busy building my own world inside my head. Tala kept running in and out of the room. I didn’t notice how long she was gone. I just sat there, lost in thought. That is, until the time the sound of Salim sobbing came into the room before Tala did. As soon as I saw him, I hurried...

Walt Whitman and Me: Notes on a Poetic Education

To the poets of the Lebanese Journal Shi‘r   I know I’m about to write myself into another maze and I’m going to get lost in it. In my infancy there was my father, there was my mother, there was also the shaykh of the nearby mosque, there was the shaykh of the Qur’ân school.  In my childhood there was my father, there was my mother, and there was our president, Gamal Abdel Nasser.  In my adolescence there were the Egyptian romantic...

A Bedtime Story for Eid

Translator’s note: Zaher Omareen’s tale takes us on a journey back to 1980s Hama, zooming in on some of the individual victims of the massacres and disappearances committed by the regime there, as told by a mother to her son. Between 10,000 and 40,000 people perished at the hands of Hafez al-Assad’s forces in a 27-day massacre in 1982: such was the climate of fear that it has only ever been referred to—if at all—as The Events. As this story is told in the...

I Am a Refugee

My apologies, Sir, That I come to you As a refugee. Accept me as a human being and not As a slave. Do not look down on me; Do not look me up and down. I am a poet; My testimonies plaster the walls, And people far and wide recite my poems. Will you accept me among you As a refugee? They destroyed my poems, along with the walls they hung upon; When they torched the verses, I burned with them. They broke my mind; They robbed my thoughts; They stripped our insides. Will you accept me among...

Falling Down Politely, or How to Use Up All Six Bullets Instead of Playing Russian Roulette

But where’s the skill in loading a gun with just one round of ammunition and pointing it at your head, trying your luck at deliverance? The ingenious thing would be to fill all six chambers and let every bullet kill you, one after the other. Bullet 1 Even though the voice ringing out from the stereo in your bedroom belongs to a singer who didn’t die at twenty-seven like those other musical geniuses—Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, that bunch—you still listen to him every...

Exile is Born at This Moment

Oh, my love, while you are in my breath, I am a statue of snow at the entrance to Damascus, with eyes closed, nose breathing anger, ears tuned to the noise of death, mouth speechless, trying to say: when blood is exiled, nothing binds it to the race. With you in my breath, my every moment is absurd. Uselessness rehearses images in my mind. On the screens I watch Metal snow falling. Ink is a dimming light. Eyes do not see yet fill with images. Oh, eyes, you are also covered by the snow of...

The Curse of the South

“Two kinds of people live in this city: The ones who were born here, and those who came here, fleeing something. Me, I wasn’t born here!” When his fever peaked and he started to sweat, at night, the truck driver’s assistant brought him to the closest clinic along the road. The doctor received him and asked him his place of birth. He didn’t answer,but simply exposed his right shoulder to show him his tuberculosis vaccination scar. Mary, the tall Italian girl....

Chicago: Present-Day Paradise, Future Magic

The great Iraqi writer Mahmoud Saeed was imprisoned in Iraq six times between 1959 and 1980. He left Iraq in 1985 and has lived in Chicago since 1999. He wrote this essay on the eve of his departure to spend a semester as the first writer-in-residence at the American University of Iraq in Sulaimani.—The Editors Chicago awarded me its love, the way beauties do, because she is a playful, mercurial, liberated, enchanting maiden. From icy weather of twenty degrees below zero to heat...

Bag of the Nation

I took the big bag that I had inherited from my grandfather down from the attic. It was brightly colored like a storm of rainbows. I hoisted it onto my back and went out into the street. I closed my eyes and began to choose samples at random from everything that was inside: humans and stones and dust and flowers and wind and the past and the present and the future. I carried the heavy bag on my back and set off on a far-ranging journey around the world, proudly carrying the overflowing...

The Bamboo Stalk

One evening I called a taxi to go to the gas depot near the central market to change an empty cylinder. One of the streets in Jabriya was severely congested. Jabriya is always crowded, but congestion like this, with cars hardly able to move, could only happen if there was an accident or a checkpoint. As I expected, at the end of the street there were police cars with lights flashing blue and red. The police were standing by the side of the road checking driving licenses and registration...

Bushrawi . . . Ranjini

Ranjini I’m frightened. Why are the people I’m to work for late? When will they come for me? My heart is pounding. Will they send me back to my country? I see that it’s dark outside the hall. What will I do in this large airport all by myself? I don’t want to remember that evening. It was hot and humid. We sat, my cross-eyed neighbor and I, amid the racket made by the children, thinking despondently about our many problems. Without any preamble, she suddenly asked,...

War

Men plan wars And women survive in the rubble One day there will be no men And a woman will pursue another In search of the scent of the last man Who touched his lips to her neck. © Manal Al-Sheikh. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2014 by Angham A. Abdullah. All rights reserved. 

My Body

A body that is the one I borrowed the first night with you . . .  I watch it every night running toward a waveless sea where the sand of age rests in its veins . . . The wearied ships land in its eyes and summon it to sleep . . . © Manal Al-Sheikh. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2014 by Angham A. Abdullah. All rights reserved.

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