The Cafe’s Bird by Suzan A’alyoowan

THE CAFE’S BIRD BY SUZAN A’ALYOOWAN

TRANSLATED BY: H.I. AL-MUHAIRI

————-

Your place in the cafe
is not empty.
After you left,
a bird came
and sat in your corner.
I contemplate him
from afar,
just as I used to contemplate you,
as he is smoking his cigarette
and wandering with his lost eyes
in the smoke.

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Diary of an Elderly Young Person (pg. 22-30) – part #3

I hope I am getting better with every update. I’m starting to get used to Subhi’s subtle humor and the ironic eye with which he looks at everything with. He often makes references to poets and songs so I thought that I’d write notes whenever I spot those references. Hope you enjoy part #3.

———————————

Those Who Have Gone Astray

I start praying. I mumble ‘Al-Fatiha’ until I reach His saying: “nor those who have gone astray”.

Moments of peace, and I am living in the spaciousness of the words. I don’t know how lost do I need to be more in order to be one of those who have gone astray.

I swivel around in an orbit of questions, and there are no answers except for circles of dull words that don’t satisfy me or please me.

[T/N: Al-Fatiha is the first chapter of the Qura’an that is composed of seven short verses. These verses ask God for guidance and the two last verses in Al-Fatiha are: “Guide us to the Right Path. The path of those upon whom Thou has bestowed favors, Not of those who Thou has cursed once nor of those who have gone astray.” I hope this sheds light to Subhi’s thoughts.]

*

What Is Worth Living

Forced silence.

I dive in the last of my academic swamps, and take another step on the road to freedom.

Mahmoud Darwish raises his voice, “On this Earth, there is what is worth living.”

I try to earnestly believe him, but with there’s no use.

 [T/N: Darwish was a Palestinian poet who often wrote of freedom and politics.]

*

Diary of an Elderly Young Person

The remains of cups of used stimulants rest next to the poetry volumes of Amal Dungul. I immerse myself in a swamp of chemical compounds and a creative chaos of papers.

A faint tempo morning…

A tired self and eyes closed from the past and present.

The tired lungs rinses itself from the warm color, the poison is blown out, the closed door and the eyes and the sounds all fade, and I die on the stairs.

God damn it, today’s the exam.

*

Morning Rituals

Waking up early.

A traditional European breakfast: toast crowned with Dutch butter and some processed mango juice. A mental and physical relaxation.

A glance at the road empty from passersby from my big balcony, a partial separation from myself and others. I immerse myself in details; I recall Khalid’s verses:

“Every morning I remove myself from my nostalgia,

I put out some of my remaining flames,

I wipe away the rust of sorrow,

I forget that you were my homeland.”

A deep breath; the air here is so clean to the point that it’s worrying.

The sound of the National Geographic channel urges me to more knowledge, to feel more alive.

A quick scanning of newspapers, and some morning greetings from friends that are seperated from me by three thousand kilometers, joined by a combination of electronic chips and optical fibers.

Good Morning.

*

About Government Departments

Your papers don’t move, unless you move them yourself.

Government employee: is that person whose appreciation towards himself increases peerlessly when he proves to you that the paper is missing a “signature” or a “permit”, or maybe his self-appreciation increases even more if he proved to you that the permit’s form is incorrect and that you have to go in another vicious cycle.

Director of any person’s office: is often a person who has an inferiority complex and worships routine, and, in most cases, an idiot.

Nepotism: a crown on the heads of toll-collectors that is not felt by anyone except for those in the government departments.

Pharmacist: a person that feels a rising appreciation inside of government departments in exchange for passing a strip of ‘tramadol’.

The Eagle Seal: it’s what turns a paper filled with chicks’ scrawls into a gold key.

If you thought that you finished, then know that you’ll be starting all over again.

Come tomorrow: the most famous catchphrase inside any government office, and right now, there are several substitutes like: “Are you in a hurry? If you have something to do, then go and do it then come back”, or “Leave it to me for a while”, or lately, “Ms. Tufeeda is not here today”.

Be a man, and go around in the government departments.

*

The Falling of Blackberry Leaf

Have you ever had the chance to see a very tempting back for which you give half a smile that announces a mixture of the Joker’s slyness and George Bush’s happiness in his invasion of Iraq, and then you proceed and lift your hand with everything you’ve got before “planting” it right on someone’s back on the basis that he is Mohammed, the son of Mrs. Laila, and when he turns around and reveals his fangs to find that he is Mohammed indeed, only he’s the son of El-Shahaat Mabrook -supposing that he has kids- and he goes on to give you a valuable lesson in manners in a practical way?

The funny thing is that you will try to make him sympathesize with you a lot; you will mention to him how “helpless” you are, and how you can’t “hurt” a fly, and that you can barely watch wrestling on TV without fainting. You will tell him about Mohammed, the son of Mrs. Laila, and how similar he is to him, and about Mrs. Laila herself and the party on Friday. You will tell him about the ‘Tae Kwan Do’ belt that you pretend to be the world champion with, and about your morning Foul sandwitch.

You will cry a lot so he wouldn’t harm you.

You will strip away from the lies that are wrapped around you, until the last blackberry leaf falls, and you find yourself completely naked in front of the truth!

Only then will you realize how much resounding falling is.

‘The Right Man’ by Ahmed Matar

‘THE RIGHT MAN’ BY AHMED MATAR

TRANSLATED BY: H.I. AL-MUHAIRI

———————–

In the name of our revered alderman,

they decided to hang the man who assassinated my brother.

But he was short,

and so the executioner went and asked,

“His head doesn’t reach the rope, so what I should I do?”

After much deep thought,

the alderman ordered for my hanging instead

because I was much taller.

Diary of an Elderly Young Person (pg. 13-21) – post #2

T/N: Hey! Back with another translation of DoaEYP (long title XP) and I am so incredibly excited that I’m in a pretty good mood for doing this. I think this second post is smoother because I’m starting to get the hang of this. 🙂 So, enjoy Subhi’s thought process~ This is when things begin to get a bit more interesting. What is next picks up from where the first post ended.

Departure

Sometimes our fear of losing others -by their choice- stands as a wall between us and them to the point that it forces us to lose them by our own choosing because we fear that moment when they decide to abandon us.

*

Hamlet

Alone in my room, I unburden myself of the heaviness of details, the length and remoteness of distances, and the aches of the soul. Tired, the flu leaves a rampant stale taste in my mouth; a thousand daggers pierce my throat, and the coughing is almost ripping my chest apart.  I take two tablets of painkillers, and then I drink a cup of warm Anise tea that might reach my frozen insides that yearn for warmth.

I become nothingness itself…a short sigh, and an aspiration for the comfort of naught.

*

Life For Beginners

I have said it before: Truth is, nobody cares!

And another poet has said it in an eloquent Arabic language a thousand years ago: “Don’t complain to people about a wound that belongs to you; the wound hurts no one except for he who has the pain.”

I might have said to him amiably, “A bit of pain is alright, but what do you do about the ache?”

Pain passes; it comes and goes. However, we get completely crushed under the umbrella of the resident ache. Wounds do heal, but aches are chronic, eating away at the soul.

The problem is, we -unconsciously and involuntarily- exaggerate our expectations of other people’s responses beyond reason. We place ourselves in high positions; we think that our actions, words, absence, presence has an exaggerated effect although nothing changes in the universe. We expect others to die because of a disaster that befalls us, because of losing someone precious to us, because of an academic fall back, or for any vice of life’s many vices.

We go and then we return, feeling the features of the road, looking hard for what has changed although the time of absence has been very short…to find that people still go to their work, still throw old jokes, eat popcorn, and watch TV whether we are there or not.

No one will feel for you when your father leaves without a good bye, or when he passes away and he’s not content with you, or when your faith gets crushed under the pressure of consecutive disappointments, or when you lose your best friend–the list  goes a long way. These are aches you can’t only bear with others’ temporary warmth, and any words of sharing would seem trite no matter how articulate they are.

Even the moments of true sharing in the most sincere cases stay below previous personal expectations; people will pat your shoulders, trying to give you some temporary warmth, and they’ll disappear for you to understand on your own that nothing changes in the alphabet of life!

*

Spanish

I was extremely afraid to fail academically, so I found myself in my final year giving way to one of the stylish girls that were once classmates in one class to correct the “bio-calibrations” section that I strongly detest in the practical booklet.

*

Innocence

They whispered.

She appeared to be scared and confused; she stood in the center and they surrounded her, trying to give her internal reassurance.

She yelled, “I’m going to tell him what, exactly?!”

“Alright, alright; don’t be scared. Tell him ‘hello, can I talk to you for a bit?'”

She stood in complete stillness; it seemed to me that she was trying to re-shoot the scene, and then she backed away. They started pushing her until she found herself in front of him.

He was sitting and looked to me like an ice cube.

She was at the peak of her clutter, and he was at the pinnacle of his calmness. She stopped a meter away from him and has fallen silent completely.

*

A Yellow Flower

We sat together on a wooden chair that emitted a distasteful creak sound that we were used to sit on. He took out his American cigarettes and a Qura’an that he always kept in his left pocket. He straightened his position in his chair.

He hid his eyes, and told me in sound English and a shaky voice:

I’m falling in love again.

*

Cordelia

Dear Cordelia,

I am fine, but I am still going around in vicious cycles with a short breath.

I still keep my boring daily routine and bad habits–not to mention a little doll of a bear that is called ‘Mega’ that rests on my desk, which I received as a present from a Canadian colleague in the occasion of Vancouver’s Olympics. I put in his hand a small flag of Holland that I’ve keeping since my last visit to the Magyar.

My lust for writing has stopped, and my desire was extinguished in the midst of my intellectual drought. I don’t know why and for how long; I’m not even excited to know the answer, and I live in a state of a metaphysical wait for everything. But I think I’ve come a long way in the matter of autism with myself after countless debates, and an internal practice of a settling disputes policy, or mitigating them for a while. One of its results was that we grew closer a little although it is -most often- nauseating.

I got a cat that I named after you, but they don’t stop calling her with another silly name with the excuse that it is much easier. I watch the falling of papers from the wall calendar passionately even though the days are extremely similar in a pathetic way.

I received violent shocks in the level of my expectations from others, and especially from the people around me. I became terribly austere when it came to asking for happiness, which I barely believe with a fragile faith in its existence, all fittingly because it’s rare. I still take lots of stimulants, I’m surrounded by many papers, and I am looking forward to buy a new android phone as soon as possible.

Sincerely Yours.

Diary of an Elderly Young Person (pgs. 1-12) – post #1

Before we start:

This is my first ever official post and I hope this is a good beginning. 🙂 Amr Subhi writes very philosophically and with a hint of poetry beneath his words. I hope you enjoy his strange musings and thoughts just as much as I did when I first read them. Over.

DIARY OF AN ELDERLY YOUNG PERSON

AMR SUBHI

APRIL 2011

*

This work is basically a light collection of unconnected thoughts that were mostly published on the internet at different times over the years.

*

To my tainted innocence, to the lines of time engraved in the details of my face, and to my biggest losses in the stock market of life.

–Amr Subhi

*

Five Years of Isolation

I write now -as I’m sharing myself, my dreams, and my hopes- a justified anxiety and a screaming sadness. I don’t know why I write, and to whom I write. The intentions have differed but the writing is one.

Previously, I used to write to enjoy what temporary bliss writing provided for me, yet now, the idea of sharing with everyone reports of my sadness, happiness, and endless misfortunes doesn’t appeal to me. But I write for my soul to get rid of the smugness of discretion and its cold rituals. I started digging in yesterday’s desert for answers to absent questions.

Five years ago, I entered this place uncaring. My memory now wanders around hundreds of faces and places and tens of exams that tear my heart. My crying so violent that I thought I would die from it several times, the volumes of poetry, and the sighs of love–all of these memories emerge and I close the door in their faces with what little faith I have, a scattering of will, and a little conviction.

Girls here are -all in all- infuriatingly repetitive, typical to the point of boredom, and an example of a girl that passed from high school with a high average to a place that she knows nothing of except for the smell of chloral hydrate and course papers.

She studies and waits for a husband that would accomplish for her the feminine dream…and the opening of a pharmacy!

I own a ruined heart that was always a hotbed to a chaos of emotions, but they were the greatest abettors for me to stay. I practiced the worship of discretion to the extent that it keeps you behind the lines of time, surrounded by thoughts that you wrestle frequently in a fight that -most often- ends in the thoughts winning. And despite the fact that I spent a long time making conditional peace with myself and adapting to my aborted dreams, I decided to reconcile with myself by sharing what is left of my concerns and thoughts.

–Amr

*

We Have Our Pains, And You Have Yours

A start

He has no idea how much time it cost for sleep to bless him with its charity. He lies half-drugged, unprovoked by the ticking of the clock or the sun’s rays.

He greets the sun: ‘Sad morning’ and she greets him back with something even better: ‘Morning of pain’.

A repeated and duplicated morning in the honor of sadness.

People sleep and their souls are taken, then they are sent back once again for them to practice pretending to be alive. His soul is sent back in a lackluster way for him to ask himself in sarcastic, artificial excitement, “How much is left of today?”

Worn down to the brink of pain…

He doesn’t feel any desire to leave his coffin; he stares at the wall as if waiting for a miracle from heaven, trying to unburden himself from the heaviness of the memories’ pain on his shoulders.

Nothing hurts more than trying to lessen the pain.

He feels the birth of two tears -furtively- in his sockets before they commit suicide in misery on his cheeks.

*

Wonder

What is up with our joy hugging the thorn of sorrows?

*

She complains to him about her pain, and he assures her that “we are all equal in pain”.

This time he is incapable of counting the generated teardrops; he only feels them make their way through his face that was hardened by sadness and tired from crying, and tastes their salty taste on the edges of his lips.

The memory of things returned, flying around him, and his hands don’t move to get rid of its traces.

She assures him, “It’s enough that it fell away from you, for it might wash from the soul what it desired”

He is worn down from crying.

She retreats, “It might hurt now and then become a philosophy”.

He remains silent for a while, and then he looks at her and she realizes that he has believed in pain and blasphemed the philosophy.

*

Philosophy

(Ask death about you)…Ask the fake joy

(Ask sorrow about you)…Ask the still tear

(Ask happiness about you)…Ask the scared happiness

–Khalid Saleem

He asks her not to carry burdens over her burdens. He passes his hand over her head and whispers in her ear, “There is someone who sins as much as closing the door, and someone who sins as much as opening it widely!”

He knows that there are souls that are still pure despite the pollution of the present and who haven’t lost their virginity on the hands of experience–except the fact that it is not for them two.

The beginning of the matter is like its end, and its end like its beginning; circles of carefully aged pain that never end.

Together they scour the depths of sorrow and the labyrinths of pain looking for hints of breezes of hope, but they don’t get anything but more…pain.

To continue reading: post #2.