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from the January 2007 issue

The Stranger in His Own Icon

The one whom you found by chance in the mirror,
whom you found, by chance, in the mirror
in its dark side to be exact

was there, alone, thinking of you
and trying to ingratiate himself with your isolation

He is the one whom you called out of his darkness
and fed with your hands
because you were in need of company-nothing more

You called out to him and he came
you beckoned to him and he jumped to his feet

You would hardly turn your back when he would stare at you
with eyes like a hyena's
before returning to his corner in the mirror

Now you remember all that
because there is time, a long time, you have to pass
looking at the mirror
at its dark side, to be exact

as he is sitting in your chair
feeding you with his hands
and giving you to drink
and calling you, and you come

The image of his home in Beit-Jala haunts him
he has to go back in order to close that window,
it is not very clear
whether he has to do that
Things are no longer clear
since the time he lost them
and a hollow seems to have been opened somewhere within him
He has been exhausted by closing the breaches
and propping up the hedges
and wiping off the glass
and cleaning the edges
and noticing the dust which, since he lost them,
seems as if it has been leading his memories into snares and deceptions

From here, his childhood appears like a deception!

He has been utterly exhausted by checking the doors
and the windows
and the conditions of the plants,
and by wiping off the dust
which has not ceased accumulating
in the rooms and beds and sheets and utensils
and on the picture frames and the walls.

Since the time he lost all these things
he has been sitting in the houses of his friends, who are decreasing,
and has been sleeping in their beds
while the dust eats up his memories there
. . . He has to go back in order to close that window
that upper window at the top of the stairs leading to the roof
which he mostly forgets to close

Since the time he lost all these things
he has been walking aimlessly,
and the little goals of each day are no longer clear either.

First published in Al-Karmil 87 (Spring 2006): 122-24. Copyright 2006 by Ghassan Zaqtan. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2006 by Issa J. Boulatta. All rights reserved.


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