Five Poems in English by Mina Nagy


Elliott Erwitt, New York City, 1977. Source:

Pick-up Lines

I can only relate poems to dreams,

that’s why the last three years

I had a few of them

though I’d already denounced myself as a poet;

because escaping from consciousness

is like escaping from the self,

it doesn’t go past skin’s borders.

I’ve counted masturbation sessions as though counting sheep,

without calculating mean or median

or any statistical tricks.

I wanted to say, Love you,

but it came out, Fuck you.

Maybe we can have dinner some time?



I make this many mistakes 

just to be sure that one morning

I will cross over to the cafe

without them being counted.

“I wish you were here”

is not such a cliche

considering it is the point of my life.

I hate Freud for practical reasons,

Marx for aesthetic ones.

But Hegel – he sneaks me the kind of theology

that keeps you going behind your mother’s back.

Kafka laughs his bitter Jew’s laugh

every time I complain to him about you.

In the morning I cross over to the cafe

carrying a bag with a laptop inside it,

my mistakes’ register.



They were telling me of the slanderous shadows of daylight when I started to tell them about the terrible agony of night, then they just turned their backs and left. ‘Go home,’ they said, not even looking at me. Astonished, I stomped my feet until the police came and took me to the station. ‘Show us what you’re hiding in your pockets, please,’ the police said. So I took out Regret, which has a red, tall nose. Then Shame, with its round belly and inverted navel. Followed by Fear, swaddled in black velvet like some demonic baby. At last I took out Sadness, with its vulgar face. Then the police turned away, arghing in disgust, unable to face the vulgarity of my Sadness.


The Palace

And you will not understand me, but you will cry.

She was trying to scare him off, and naturally he sympathised, like a naïve peasant who’s found himself in a magic palace. At a dinner table no longer than an arm, she sat in the form of a skeleton staring at him with two big black caves. They watched together in the magic crystal a coup d’état in faraway lands, while she tried to scrape some thousand-year-old lava off her ears. He imagined himself kissing her cheeks in different places, sticking his tongue in her ear like a misbehaved child. But he was afraid of ending up with a bad burn. When they walked together in the vestibule she was only half as tall as he. Next morning the newspaper in the mirror announced the failure of the coup and the madness of the ruler. The whole place was drowned in black blood. On the wall he could make out her despairing eyes staring in incomprehension.


The Shoe Box

To Carol Sansour

The time difference is everything.

Memory is an optical illusion:

it expands what cannot be expanded and shortens what must remain long.

But the darkness in our heads is enough for a forest

where creatures can prevent us from sleeping.

We count our wounds like amateurs,

smiling a tiger smile at the noise of a glass ashtray

falling abruptly out of the balcony.

Our fangs, blue from melancholy, black from cigarettes,

aerial from Bach’s genius

are useless for biting or crying.

And that is how we have come to live in a shoe box

which we stow away under our beds at night.