I Saw a Man Hugging a Fridge: Twelve Poems by Youssef Rakha in Robin Moger’s Translation

Eikoh Hosoe, Kamaitachi No. 31, 1968. Source: michaelhoppengallery.com

First song of autumn

Joy of my days, come

watch me run

I’ve bought white shoes

and see-through eagle’s wings

I am the clarinet’s mouth

and you the ransomed player

Kneel and guzzle me, set

the sea’s taste in my throat

and make my breast a wave

upon whose mane the sun

sows jewels

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Youssef Rakha: Where the Persians Perished

The men sent to attack the Ammonians, started from Thebes, having guides with them, and may be clearly traced as far as the city Oasis, which is inhabited by Samians, said to be of the tribe Aeschrionia. The place is distant from Thebes seven days’ journey across the sand, and is called in our tongue “the Island of the Blessed.” Thus far the army is known to have made its way; but thenceforth nothing is to be heard of them, except what the Ammonians, and those who get their knowledge from them, report. It is certain they neither reached the Ammonians, nor even came back to Egypt.

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Seat of a passenger who left the bus

WADIH SAADEH’S LANDMARK POEM IN ROBIN MOGER’S TRANSLATION

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Wadih Saadeh selling his poems on Hamra Street in Beirut, circa 1968. Source: al-ghorba12.blogspot

Farewell God I walk looking at my feet off to the cafe to meet my friends

Farewell I grow old the cafe in the square I mount two steps and sit

Heard Carmena Burana and went now the player sings alone

by the closed window

Light rain against the pane light rain against the port across the way

Farewell Four o’clock I have a date with my friends

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Five Poems in English by Mina Nagy

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Elliott Erwitt, New York City, 1977. Source: magnumphotos.com

Pick-up Lines

I can only relate poems to dreams,

that’s why the last three years

I had a few of them

though I’d already denounced myself as a poet;

because escaping from consciousness

is like escaping from the self,

it doesn’t go past skin’s borders.

I’ve counted masturbation sessions as though counting sheep,

without calculating mean or median

or any statistical tricks.

I wanted to say, Love you,

but it came out, Fuck you.

Maybe we can have dinner some time?

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Julian Gallo: Hoxha’s Children

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Alex Majoli, Scutari, Albania, 1997. Source: magnumphotos.com

Tirana, Albania — April 11th 1985

1

The foremost leader has died.

National mourning. Black flags flutter from the windows along side our national flag. Tears, agony, grief, everywhere one looks.

The television shows nothing but tributes to our fallen comrade.

I sit in the café, sip my coffee, watch the grief stricken faces of my fellow comrades. I look out the window at everyone just standing around, consoling one another, seeking comfort in another’s embrace.

I turn my attention back to the interior, continue to sip my coffee, occasionally watch the old films of our foremost leader when he was young, healthy, strong.

The café is crowded but most people don’t speak, most sit with their own thoughts, grieving, as if a member of their own family has passed. In a lot of ways, one had.

A woman sits by herself at the far end of the café. She isn’t crying or gazing at the television. She simply stirs a spoon in her coffee cup, smokes a cigarette, gazes out the window with no expression. She looks sad but there are no tears. Thin and pale, deep lines  crease the corners of her mouth. I can tell that she must have been very beautiful once but either time or hardship had nearly erased all traces of it. It isn’t until she glances my way that I realize who it is.

I can’t look at her.

If it weren’t for those eyes, I would have never believed it.

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