multivalence is the new ambivalence

Category: Poetry

falling into revolution

(written between May 2011 & October 2012)

I’m walking back from a dream where man-made canals
led to shopping malls of disaster and beauty,
where once I was saved from a sinister bus stop
by the smell of rain and the thought of sailing,
walking back from a black cushion and a wooden table
and these postcards blue-tacked to the wall and an empty
wine glass in lightning greens and all of it
in a mirror the size of my palm
reflected and reversed,
walking back from the early hours of grown-up
armed with a jar and a spoon, tripping
on the rhythmic possibilities of coffee and words.

Coming home
to a sand-dunes-and-sea-water-skied
cube of sunlight and dust,


free diving

On the way upward
I feel it:
umbilical cord
with the effort to feed me.

a holding in of,
a clinging to, the epitome
of the precious banality of my attachment
to this earth.

A few long seconds,
every doubt wiped clean,
sheer animalistic longing
to taste the air.

I break the surface and gasp,
born again
from the womb of the water.

*   *   *

Found clip. Random but relevant. And beautiful anyway.

the only poem

a poem by Leonard Cohen (with my translation below)

This is the only poem
I can read
I am the only one
can write it
I didn’t kill myself
when things went wrong
I didn’t turn
to drugs or teaching
I tried to sleep
and when I couldn’t sleep
I learned to write
I learned to write
what might be read
on nights like this
by one like me

القصيدة الوحيدة
التي لي قراءتها
أنا وحدي
لي أن أكتبها
لم أقتل نفسي
حين ساءت الأمور
لم الجأ لدين أو دواء
حاولت النوم
وحين عصاني
تعلمت أن أكتب
تعلمت أن أكتب
ما يمكن أن يقرؤه
في ليلة كهذه
أحدٌ مِثلي

This is your universe

You wake up every morning and you hope.
Or turn to a warm body beside you.
Or pray to no one in particular.

This is living
at its most essential.
Bared down
to a shelter,
a meal of bread and time,
a book by candle light,
a perpetual scraping together,
of loneliness or a bomb
that grinds to dust
the house across the street.

To the absence of panic,
the drawing of the next breath
the fullness of nothing,
or love,
which is to say,
the necessity of faith in the reality of what is impossible
with or without a god.

One day you walk,
alone with an hour to spare,
past a dozen empty streets,
and stop at the sea.

Peace is the quiet you do not question.
Freedom is to take your shoes off
Possibility is a stillness that equates
your being
with the salt in the air.

You spread your arms to cover
the solid land behind you.
you will ever lose
is here.

things fall

Things fall into place today

Every small death
an opening
to a distant future history.

So what if we’re doomed
to suffering then oblivion,

a whole generation lost
down the spiral of its love
for itself?

Something else
some other time
will prevail.

Every nightmare begins
a dream.

Who knows what
it may become if
beyond the jolt of panic
there is still sleep.

on the fragility of time

from a prose poem by Mahmoud Darwish -my translation

At some stage of fragility that we call mature, there is no optimism nor pessimism. We have given up longing and naming the opposites of things. Having so often confused form and content, having learned to reckon before revealing. Wisdom has the way of a doctor looking at a wound. We look back to find where we stand from truth and from ourselves. How many mistakes? Have we come late to wisdom? There is no certainty in the wind, so what good in coming late to anything. Even if you’re expected at the bottom of the hill and invited to a thanksgiving for arriving safe… with no optimism nor pessimism, just late!


من ديوان أثر الفراشة لمحمود درويش


في مرحلة ما من هشاشةٍ نُسمِّيها نضجاً، لا نكون متفائلين ولا متشائمين. أقلعنا عن الشغف والحنين وعن تسمية الأشياء بأضدادها، من فرط ماالتبس علينا الأمر بين الشكل والجوهر، ودرّبنا الشعور على التفكير الهادئ قبل البوح. للحكمة أسلوبُ الطبيب في النظر إلى الجرح. وإذ ننظر إلى الوراء لنعرف أين نحن منَّا ومن الحقيقة، نسأل: كم ارتكبنا من الأخطاء؟ وهل وصلنا إلى الحكمة متأخرين. لسنا متأكدين من صواب الريح، فماذا ينفعنا أن نصل إلى أيّ شئ متآخرين، حتى لو كان هنالك من ينتظرنا على سفح الجبل، ويدعونا إلى صلاة الشكر لأننا وصلنا سالمين … لا متفائلين ولا متشائمين، لكن متأخرين!


hand on glass painting

..with artwork from Aalam Wassef

للكلماتِ حُرمة

المواطنون الشرفاء يعتدون على الثوار.. والثوار الحقيقيون يطيعون الحاكم.. والعملاء هم من يساند حقوق العمال.. أما رافضي التعذيب في السجون الحربية فهم الخونة.. البلطجي يصرخ بكلمة حق في وجه سلطان جائر.. والساكت عن الحق ليس الشيطان الأخرس بل الأغلبية الصامتة..

يخلقون الأكاذيب وتصدقونها فتضيع المعاني من الكلمات..

أشكال والوان

صورة المصلين في التحرير النهارده فكرتني بالمقطع ده من قصيدة تميم البرغوثي

يا مصر قومي وبصي في المرايات
كان كل واحد في الميدان جايب معاه مراية
رافعها للسما
اشكال والوان كلها مرفوعة في العالي
صبحت مراية واحدة بتلالي
وبقت يا مصر الارض صورة للسما
لعبة بازل متكاسرة الاجزاء
لما البشر يتجمّعوا تبان السما ع الارض
ّواما البشر يتفرّقوا تلقي السما بتنفض
تبقى سما متوزّعة جوه الشقق
وتمر ليلة من التوجُّس والقلق
وننام ونصحى تاني يوم
ترجع سما لما البشر يتجمّعوا مع بعض

Translated from a poem by Tamim Al-Barghouti, with inspiration from this image.

Wake up Egypt and look in the mirrors.

In the square each holds up a mirror.
The different shapes and colours become one image:
A shimmering sky.

People like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
When they come together, the sky comes down to earth.
It breaks when they part, one sky scattered
In rooms all over the city.

The night is tense.

We sleep and wake to return
to the square, bringing with us the sky.

Paris, 2pm


The city moves you

as it moves me

In long strides soft boots rhythmic ease through pastel

coloured crowds painting lavender fields across acres

of pavement and snow

We go

from café to cinema to umbrella search at utmost speed breathing

without pause for breath you reach for my hand as I find yours

not missing a touch a word a look or a beat

We cascade down the steps to the metro pour fluidly through the barriers

the bodies the plastic posters above invisible lives in ancient tunnels we hover

like water through the cracks in the rocks

we flow

Over daydreams of brassy tunes impressionistic strokes fragrant steam of

morning coffee Japanese food gulping wind frozen on our faces

feeling no hurry no time no cold no need


We are the city that moves me as it moves you


We are the moveable feasts of what we know what we’re about to discover what we forgot we knew


We are urban butterflies with wings of steel scales of glass reflecting sky whites snowy blues


We are unicorns of porous stone galloping through the warehouses the palaces the alleyways of one long afternoon



the right to be wrong

من قصيدة <إن أردنا> لمحمود درويش

سنصير شعباً، إن أردنا، حين نعلم أننا لسنا ملائكةً، وأنّ الشرَّ ليس من اختصاص الآخرينْ
سنصير شعباً حين لا نتلو صلاة الشكر للوطن المقدَّس، كلما وجد الفقيرُ عشاءَهُ …
سنصير شعباً حين نشتم حاجب السلطان والسلطان، دون محاكمةْ
سنصير شعباً حين ننسى ما تقول لنا القبيلة … حين يُعلي الفرد من شأن التفاصيل الصغيرةْ
سنصير شعباً حين تحمي شرطة الآداب غانيةً وزانيةً من الضرب المبرِّح في الشوارع!
سنصير شعباً، إن أردنا، حين يؤذَن للمغنّي أن يرتِّل آية من <سورة الرحمن> في حفل الزواج المُختَلطْ
سنصير شعباً حين نحترم الصواب، وحين نحترم الغلطْ!

. . .

These lines are from a poem by Mahmoud Darwish. I guess he meant it to be about Palestine. But when I remembered it yesterday and started translating it, I had Egypt in mind..


We will be a nation, if that’s what we want, when we know that we are no angels, that evil is not just the trade of others.

We will be a nation when we no longer say a thanksgiving to the holy homeland, every single time a poor man finds dinner.

We will be a nation when we can curse the Sultan’s doorman and curse the Sultan, and walk away…

When we forget the voice of the tribe… when the small details of each individual win the day…

When the vice police protects the whore and the adulteress from being attacked on the streets.

We will be a nation, if that’s what we want, when we can celebrate a mixed marriage singing verses from Surat al-Rahman.

We will be a nation when we respect the right to be right and the right to be wrong.