Salah Abdessabour’s “An Old Story” Translated by Robin Moger


Vincent Van Gogh, Self-portrait with bandaged ear and pipe, 1889, Arles. Source: Wikipedia

He had friends,

and they pledged him in the evening of his sorrow

not to turn him over to the soldiers

or to deny him when

he was summoned by the king.

And one turned him over

for a handful of silver

then committed suicide

and by another he was denied

three times before dawn broke

and once he had died his lips

could smile again, and then

he went on his way evangelizing,

boasting that he had known him,

and fished blessings by baptizing

in his name.


And now, my friends,

I ask you a perplexing question:

Which of these two did he love?

The one who lost his soul and held life cheap

or the one who built him temples

and in his name built pulpits

raised up on a life

spared because disguised?


Now, my friends:

Which did he love?

Which loved himself?

Which loved us?