Snow falls on the cacti, then a cry and a café, a star and encampments, a priest’s gown rent by wolves, shoes made of fine leather. How do turtles shiver on the shores of Hadramout? The full moon moans from the bottom of the river . . . and the girls scream in rapture. I do not need a bullet. My only fortune in this world is the wall behind my back. How green the grass on the steppes of Shahrazour! I saw a rope being dangled. Where is Youssef? I was in the markets of Timbuktu . . . and I laboured. One night a ship sailed us through the shoals of Djibouti .
Mogadishu tosses lamb meat to the sharks. I have no destination. I have a cat who lately has begun to tell me the story of my life. Eternity ever coming nearer, why have you too betrayed me? This afternoon I will learn to sip the brutality of flowers. What does treachery taste like? Once I travelled taken by my song. The soldiers’ trains roll on . . . rolling. Roll on. Rolling. Roll on. Rolling . . . The
snow of Moscow warms my tears. There is no virtue to herdsmen as they settle and as they set for travel . . . Cities dissolve villages with the shake of a finger. My bread is made of coarse rice flour, and the salt of my fish is ash. There is no chance I will be her lover tonight in the girls’ dormitory. No . . . On Saturdays she closes her door to me. I will burn the papers. The inspector may arrive. On the night train I dozed off in my chains. And the wooden seat was my plane that crashed. They are chanting for you, girl of the harbour tavern. The strangers returned from their search for diamonds. On the stone of Hejja the eagles of Hemair take their rest. Once I almost found the child-moon in my palm. Why did the people leave the park? I do not want your hand. Do not toss me your rope made of tatters. Today I have found another torrent:
Welcome to life . . . welcome, my other lover.
Translated by Khaled Mattawa