Three Poems

By Youssef Rakha

Winter

Woman wants forever
And man wants heaven
And sometimes not oftentimes
The two wants collide
And both become a cloud
Less often still but sometimes
They die, actually die
Before it can rain
And the world stays dry
And everything remains
Just fine

 

Rome, February 2015

Then a white bird comes. A big white bird. And it is close, closing like it is going to land on your head. After the rain has stopped. Wings level with your shoulders. On the rooftop before you’re due to leave. Exactly like it’s on your head. And you in the dark with no umbrella over you. The size of your suitcase. On the roof the night you’re due to go. Before getting lost at the station. The water running to your feet. And the sun lost in the light. And beneath a Roman column. The alleys that curl. And the wind which irons the umbrella. And the umbrella yawning. Life at both sides of the road. And life is always a life. And rain until departure. And the umbrella lifting in the wind. And the sound of the suitcase’s wheels. Gravel then tiles. And the dream of faces in the glass. The taste of thyme in the potatoes. A building the colour of a peach. Mounds of melon beneath shavings of mortadella. And the shavings which curl. And the blacks selling umbrellas. And on the thresholds of the restaurants. Speech a song sung over and over. And a white bird saying farewell. And the umbrellas at the entrances to the restaurants. And the wind at the entrances to the restaurants. And life at the entrances to the restaurants. The size of your suitcase. And life always a life. 

 

Shipping traffic

The grey ships come from the north,
The snow-white ships come from the pole,
The ships of the south are all broken down.
O harbourmaster sitting on the cloudbanks,
O harbourmaster walking on the water,
Tell those leaping on the equator line
How their flesh might turn to wood,
How their bones might turn to steel,
Until from out their bodies comes a ship,
Its black pushing through the swell. 

 

Translated from the Arabic by Robin Moger.

Youssef Rakha is an Egyptian novelist and journalist. His first two novels were The Book of the Sultan's Seal (2011) and The Crocodiles (2013), both published in English in 2014 (by Interlink Books and Seven Stories Press in America). Paul Starkey’s English translation of The Book of Sultan’s Seal was awarded the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation in 2015. His third novel, Paolo (part 2 of The Crocodiles) was published in 2016.