Mohab Nasr: The people are asleep

Two Versions

(1)

“The people are asleep,

Don’t wake the people, darling,

So she’d tell him

Whenever he cracked his knuckles on the balcony,

Whenever his eyes shone behind the door

Like a password,

Whenever he withdrew soft-foot to the kitchen,

Contemplating the rack of knives,

Whenever he stuffed himself beneath a chair,

Or curled up

Like a can opener,

Whenever he wanted to speak,

Bearing his thoughts on a dish,

Wanted to fart,

Seeking the right direction,

Seeking the beat that would hold him balanced

Without wounding sensibilities.

“The people are asleep my darling”

So she’d tell him;

He, too,

Was careful not to wake the people,

To endure its dreams

Like a kid’s kicks,

To ape its slack tongue like a fool,

To crawl before it on all fours

That he might tell it the story of creation;

Yes, he loved the people,

He’d even swear to friends,

“It’s changed my life,”

And of course they were behind him all the way.

.

(2)

“The people are asleep,

Don’t wake the people, darling,”

So she’d tell him,

Whenever he cracked his knuckles on the balcony,

Whenever he wished to kiss her,

Seeking some role for his lips,

Whenever he turned his head

To happiness:

A solitude with no door,

A sudden yearning

For the machinery of yesteryear,

Time of anthems

That left his throat bared,

Time of his godless prayers;

“Don’t wake the people, darling,”

So she’d tell him

Whenever she withdrew soft-foot to the kitchen,

Contemplating the savagery of the knives,

Whenever he stuffed himself beneath a chair,

Or curled up

Like a can opener,

Whenever he wanted to explain his fears

Without mouths enough to do it,

“The people are asleep, darling,”

So she’d tell him;

He, too, was careful not to wake the people

And with his doubled head

Desired to fashion a profundity for his life

And his silence,

A mirrored lip that understood the silence;

The people: his other head,

The people: teeth and screens,

The people sprout from his throat’s root

Then blast the house with its snore;

“Don’t wake the people, darling”

He, too, loved the people,

Wanted to endure its dreams

Like a kid’s kicks,

To ape its slack tongue like a fool,

To crawl before it on all fours

That he might tell it the story of creation;

Yes, he loved the people,

He’d even swear to friends:

“It’s changed my life,”

And of course they were behind him all the way.

.

Translations by Robin Moger

Respond to Mohab Nasr: The people are asleep

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