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Poetry

Egypt, we left you in the nightfrost

where winter stormed your shaky frame

and heaven learned to weep. I see

in your face the longing for shelter,

how you smile despite the scars, and the sun

seeps up through the night. Behind lashes,

the ruin of tears. For now, pride

and revolution hold back more.

 

Driven by the cold, lines of exiles

settle in emptiness. In this stingy age,

the young who covet crusts of bread

left long ago. Your blood is lost

among the cracked skulls of women and elders,

lost in whores’ perfume, lost in a glass of wine.

The Arab nation can’t blame us

for being sick of the drums of brotherhood.

 

Beloved invalid, what happened to awe?

Where are the colorful clothes

and the perfume that filled all creation?

We fleeced it all, even vows and modesty,

left you jilted in the ditch of our ignorance.

 

O holy land that still and forever summons hope for the pilgrim

O rose through which we embrace grief

O love that we adore in purity as well as sin

 

When we are discarded by darkness,

you are the one whose mouth is bright.

Don’t abandon your breathing voice.

Tomorrow’s sky alive again with your scent

and I will feel your body rise once more.

Come to us, beloved,

in the tattered age of strays.

Come for us, inner haven,

in a time of tyrants.

I got used to crying as soon

as I started, and now I can’t stop.

While a glass shatters, grief persists

and purity is a rarity,

but your beauty beams and hums, autumn

blazing on despite winter’s windy oncome.

 

We faithful children witness flowing springs despite the frost,

the scents of yearning, and the perfume of blood.

Your people, Egypt, arc and seam the generations—

don’t ask anyone else for reconstruction.

 

Don’t look back, searching for what

you have given. Be mouth and eye and

voice as you always have since

the earth’s first secret, and forgive

us, O temple of the soul, O black

delta soil, forgive us for God’s sake.

 

 

Translated from the Arabic by Andy Fogle and Walid Abdallah

All translated work in this issue is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.


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