Tam Hussein: The American

Christopher Anderson, Kunduz, Afghanistan, 2001. Source: magnumphotos.com

“What do you reckon that is?” Abu Imad said, tapping the scope. He looked at me, rubbing his bushy beard thoughtfully. He wanted me to make the two-meter journey to take a look.

“I’m all right here to be honest,” I said, looking at Abu Imad’s powerful frame. In my experience, God creates two types who stay on for the long haul. Either the rugby player variety or the wiry knife wielding sort, used to taking down bigger opponents. Abu Imad belonged to the former.

“Come,” he insisted, “come.”

I didn’t really feel like giving him my opinion. I didn’t want to entertain the mad shit bouncing around his head. What’s it going to be? Either some mountain goat or a hardy plant that has somehow emerged out of this cruel valley where we’d been stuck for years. What new excitement could this brother show me? We hadn’t progressed against the enemy, not because we were weak but because the commanders were arguing sometimes over strategy, sometimes over tactics, most of the time over honour and on rare occasions about God. In spite of them, we held this crag. We were mountain lions in courage and mountain goats in stubbornness.

“Come,” he pleaded, “check it.”

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Nizar Qabbani by Yasmine Seale

The Jasmine Necklace

The Jasmine Necklace on pink paper in Nizar Qabbani’s neat hand. Courtesy of Yasmine Seale | قصيدة “طوق الياسمين” على ورق زهري بخط يد نزار قباني. مع الشكر للمترجمة

“Thank you for the jasmine necklace,”

you laughed, and I thought you knew

what it meant, this man’s gift of a garland

of jasmine. I thought you had understood.


You sat in a corner, brushing your hair,

drawing drops from a bottle of scent,

on your lips a tune, heartsick, French,

its complaint, like mine, pathetic.


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Rake the Sentiment: Three Poems by Joe Linker

Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Paris, 1996. Source: magnumphotos.com

On the Bus

Caught up short on the express bus and those drivers don’t stop for shit. I avoid the express because of my affliction but it was filthy out, brown cold rain, and here come the bus, and jostling, and I don’t notice, and it’s an express, and it won’t stop.

I’m good at first, plop down in a seat, bag under my feet, floor wet but seat warm.

Claude said it come from eating out of trashcans and such. They fixed us so we could not ever have kids and road us on a rail out of Utah.

I like to look into the houses, warm glows of lights, the bus passes.

I consider my options.

Bad to give us a bad name. And I do not call myself that. I’m a traveler. A time traveler. I travel all the time. Round and round the city I go.

But I can’t hold it any longer, and this an express bus, so here we go.

Need a boat to paddle out of here. Gives a whole new meaning to disembark.

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Salah Abdessabour’s “An Old Story” Translated by Robin Moger


Vincent Van Gogh, Self-portrait with bandaged ear and pipe, 1889, Arles. Source: Wikipedia

He had friends,

and they pledged him in the evening of his sorrow

not to turn him over to the soldiers

or to deny him when

he was summoned by the king.

And one turned him over

for a handful of silver

then committed suicide

and by another he was denied

three times before dawn broke

and once he had died his lips

could smile again, and then

he went on his way evangelizing,

boasting that he had known him,

and fished blessings by baptizing

in his name.


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Robin Moger Does Salah Abdessabour

The Daybook of Bishr the Barefoot

Abu Nasr, Bishr bin al-Harith, sought out debate and discussion and heard all that was said and so inclined to mysticism. And one day he was walking through the market when, taking fright at the people there, he removed his sandals and slipped them beneath his arms and set off running through the sunbaked stones and sand, and none could keep pace with him. This was in the year 227 AH.

Leopold Müller, A barefoot man in robes running while holding a stick, 1878. Source: Wikipedia

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Valentina Viene Translates Ali Jazo: This Is Your City

John Vink, Phnom Penh, 26/11/2001. Source: magnumphotos.com

Abandoned bags are tossed about by the noon breeze.

Tree leaves, narrow pavements,


children next to shoes,

teens, out of school, are smoking.

The curls on their foreheads are so shiny

they look frozen and stiff.


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Robin Moger: From Ibn Arabi’s Turjuman al Ashwaq

I wish I knew


Claudia Gerhard. Source: strkng.com

I wish I knew they knew what heart

they held. That my heart knew

what pass they tread. You wonder

Are they safe?

Or perished?


The enamoured are

in love adrift





This is Robin Moger’s version of the first poem in Turjuman al Ashwaq

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