Youssef Rakha: Nawwah

Youssef Rakha, Masr Station, 2007

And verily We had empowered them with that wherewith We have not empowered you, and had assigned them ears and eyes and hearts—Quran, xlvi, 26

My instructions are to deliver the corpse to Nastassja Kinsky. We are to meet at nine tomorrow morning in the lobby of the Cecil Hotel, just off the seashore in downtown Alexandria. The corpse is a lightweight microelectronic bolt that looks like a miniature coffin; Nastassja Kinsky is an agent of the Plant. If I revealed what the Plant is, I would die.

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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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Valentine’s Gift: 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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Joseph Schreiber: And I Will Tell You Something

You said: I’m still here. I just don’t know what to say. But two weeks later, you were gone. And now I sit, words turned stale upon the page. Seems I’ve been here for months, rending sentences into syllables. Senseless. Torn and patched in vain.

I’m still here and you’re still gone.

You said: I don’t want to die. I just don’t want to live. But we didn’t want to hear, for fear your fear would unmask our own. We left you to your silent pain—let it erode the edges of your reserves, like waves, ceaseless, beating the shore—bruising, breaking your brash, butch swagger. Leaving fragments and splinters of you.

Bewildered, bipolar & blue.

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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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