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from the July 2011 issue

Certain Suspicions

For a poet we loved very much

When the paths of the two
will intersect at noon,
the observer
from his high lookout
will see a cross
drawn on the ground.
He will wait for a long time
until one of the two
will turn up for confession.
The two will be in a hurry,
having to take care of things
that are important to them
but irrelevant to the world.
And he will wait with the patience
of someone bored.

The shining white of the snow
will disappear,
as will the rain’s transparency.
The shadow’s ink will fade.
The glass in the windows will burst,
and the storm will unhinge the door.
People will seal all openings
with thick words
and pretended indifference.
The storm will get in though,
taking all walls,
sweeping across all heads,
eaten by hunger,
he will shatter all lanterns
blindfolding the residents,
blow out the candles,
stifling all prayers,
devour all light and all fire.

When dusk falls, they will recite
their supplications of yore,
without understanding
how these can come across their lips
in such a year.
Some will imitate the one
that seems to pray far off
that the tumultuous time may pass,
that this era may find an end
(which it won’t).
When dawn breaks,
they, angry from waiting, will begin to curse,
will condemn the destructive storm.
Whispering and afraid,
they will curse a name
and sin doing so.

The waiting observer will remain alone
up there in his lookout.
Nobody will be out,
magazines and books
whirled through the air
by the storm’s henchmen.
He will watch them,
and it will look
as if they swept up the sins,
rubbed out the footprints of the people
who passed here once.

“Be it,” he will sigh like somebody
who has to commence with some work
he does not want to do.
He will don an ancient robe
calling for deference
and go out
with a cracked staff
that will bend
each time he leans on it,
and he will have the manuscript
of a book under his arm,
a book he will never read.

Turned to the door, he will hear
metal clattering to the floor.
He will be frightened,
and the manuscript will fall to the ground.
Wet from sweat, his skin
will be covered with goose bumps.
He will brush across his open mouth
with the back of his hand.
Full of fear, he will begin to stammer
when he treads on a sheet.

Nobody will be with him
for some advice,
or above him
for some prayer.
He will not know
whether he should approach the door
to open it
or turn back
to see
what’s clattering behind him.
He will bend over
and his staff will slowly split,
the gap widening,
and he will watch
this gap continuing in his hand,
further across his face,
splitting his mind,
and he will not have moved
from his place in the dark.

He will remain standing there for a long time,
wish he would have some light
to paint a shadow for him,
a shadow
that could cross his way,
wish he would have somebody to trust below him,
some companion at his side.
He will be standing there for a long time.

. . .
. . .

He will be standing there for a long time,
petrifying, turning into a statue,
a hunched
split statue,
which people will circle
looking at it.

Vienna, August 2, 2002

Translation of "Bacd Az-Zann." Copyright Tarek Eltayeb. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2011 Wolfgang Astelbauer. All rights reserved.

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