The Great Erasure: Two Hermes Poems Translated by Robin Moger

Julian Schnabel, “Anh in a Spanish Landscape”, 1988. Source: thebroad.org

an authentic corruption

There is a corruption as old as being. We can see it in all things. Say, in language: each word a holed ship leaking meaning as it goes down. And in vision: between picturing and the picture a missing link continually dilating until it swallows both. There is an authentic corruption.

In fractal geometry we are able to measure. This is the miracle. Also, the impossibility of measuring. This is the catastrophe.

The great erasure which is happening now in the world is the work of souvenir collectors. The souvenir being the most valuable thing there is. It is the hardest currency. And the collectors think: it must not be left to the masses.

 

 

 

 

we are living the greatest loss

in history

a common loss

a common loss of memory

 

 

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Robin Moger: Two 1975 Stories by Muhammed Mustajab

Muhammad Mustajab, undated. Source: albawabhnews.com

The guide

He wandered into my path. My shoulder knocked into his shoulder and we smiled or apologised. The traffic, he said. I walked on. He turned and followed me. He said again, The traffic. I moved to the kerb and waited. He said shyly, I’m looking for the university placement office? He held out a piece of paper. I didn’t look at the piece of paper. He said, My eldest boy. He said, I’m from Tanta. He said, It’s cold. The traffic. I said, The office isn’t far. Take the first bus you see. I said, Get out at the university. Take any bus, I said. He put the letter back in his pocket and he smiled. Started moving his feet again. Started to walk away. I paused for a second and let him pass. I looked behind me. I called out. Don’t take the bus, I shouted. Listen to me. He came back. My voice was raised. Don’t take the bus, I said: It’s not far. The traffic, I said. I gestured at the pavement. I said, Just keep going on this side. I said, The office you want’s at the end of this street. He smiled. This way’s better, I said. He smiled. I said, The end of the street. Better than the traffic, I said. The letter was in his hand. He started to cross the street. I said, This side of the street, all the way down. He paused. Took a step forward. Immediately after the university, I said, and he was thrown up in the air. The whole world screaming. Rolling to a stop over his body the car.


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Robin Moger Translates “The Princess Waits: A Verse Play by Salah Abdessabour”

Abdel-Hadi El-Gazzar, The Lady Rider, early 1950s. Source: christies.com

We do not see the hut when the lights first come up, and then we see it. Its inhabitants are not interested in us, perhaps because their problems do not concern us. These women spend their days waiting for a man, and they know that one day he will come. Lights shine upstage from the front of the stage, illuminating a door in the back wall. Neither fully open nor quite shut, it swings gently on its hinges, creaking intermittently, as though the fitful wind outside the hut is knocking to make its presence known within. Then the light sweeps downstage and to the right: we see a flight of stairs rising to the princess’s room, mirrored by a flight on the left leading down to their larder. Centre stage is an old-fashioned, rectangular dining table—or rather, it is simply old: it has no identifiable fashion. Around this table there are four chairs, the back of one slightly higher than the rest. The chairs are not neatly arranged but are scattered about as though hastily vacated. Between them wend the backs of two women dressed in black, cleaning the shabby furnishings and complaining.

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I Saw a Man Hugging a Fridge: Twelve Poems by Youssef Rakha in Robin Moger’s Translation

HAITI. Gonaives. 1994. U.S. invasion.

Alex Webb, Gonaives, Haiti, US invasion, 1994. Source: magnumphotos.com

First song of autumn

 

Joy of my days, come

watch me run

I’ve bought white shoes

and see-through eagle’s wings

I am the clarinet’s mouth

and you the ransomed player

Kneel and guzzle me, set

the sea’s taste in my throat

and make my breast a wave

upon whose mane the sun

sows jewels

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Robin Moger Translates Sukaina Habiballah

From the Aperture Foundation’s Paul Strand Book by Joel Meyerowitz. Source: studiobaer.com

nes t ree

in turn I bore straw

much straw and went

in search of a tree to make

my nest but a tree I did not find 

and with the straw I’d gleaned I packed

my chest I picked a field and I stood upright there 

 

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55: Yasmine, Robin, Mohieddin

Poem 55 from a correspondence in translations of Ibn Arabi’s Tarjuman al-Ashwaq, between Yasmine Seale and Robin Moger. The first two translations are made independently and each subsequent rendering written after the other’s previous version has been sent and seen.

Khusraw discovers Shirin bathing in a pool from a 16th-century Khamsa by Nizami. Source: Wikipedia


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Y(i)

 

Distance, and desire ruins me. To meet

is no relief. Come or go, desire hardly cares.

 

Meeting him, unreckoned

things happen. In place of healing,

another ache of longing.

 

Because to meet him is to see

a person whose beauty grows

ever more abundant, proud.

 

All I can do is match my love’s ascent

To his loveliness on its measured scale.

 

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Robin Moger Does An-Nifarri

Adonis/Dennis Bouchard. From “A”, an exhibition retracing twenty years of visual works by the poet Adonis, Galerie Azzedine Alaïa, Paris, 2015. Source: worldliteraturetoday.org

who are you and who am I

he stayed me 

and he said to me   Who are you and who am I   and I saw the sun and the moon and the stars and all the lights ashine     and he said to me   There is no light in my sea shines on without I have seen it   and each thing came to me until no thing was left  and kissed me between my eyes and saluted me  and stood in shadow     and he said to me   You know me and  I do not know you   and I saw all of him clung to my robe  and not to me  and my robe leant  and I did not   and my robe leant and he said to me   Who am I   and the sun went down and the moon  and the stars fell and the lights were put out  and the dark covered all things but him   and my eye did not see and my ear did not hear  my senses ceased  and each thing spoke  it said   Allahu Akbar   and each thing came to me  a spear in its hand  it said to me   Flee   and I said   Where to   and it said   Fall into darkness   and into darkness I fell and I saw myself     and he said to me   See none but yourself ever   Come out from darkness never   And should I bring you out from it I would  show you myself   You would see me  and should you see me you would be  most distant of all

night

he stayed me 

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Robin Moger: More Saniya Saleh

The only window, in disrepair

Francesca Woodman, “Untitled”, Rhode Island, 1975-78. Source: americansuburbx.com

Don’t come tonight, sad bat

Packing your head between my brows.  

We have denied one another at times 

In despair and in defeat. In vain

Face bumping at face,

The heart at the heart.

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The Fituwa: Salah Eissa’s Raya and Sakina in Robin Moger’s Translation

1928 Print. Source: periodpaper.com

The following excerpt is from Tales from the Nation’s Archive: Raya and Sakina’s Men: A social and political history, the late Salah Eissa’s vast and discursive study of the lives and the worlds of the notorious serial-killers Raya Bint Ali Al Hammam and her sister Sakina, and their husbands Hasballah Saeed Maraei and Mohammed Abdel Aal.

Raya and Sakina and their husbands were arrested in Alexandria in early 1921 on suspicion of murder and it soon became clear that they had been responsible for the disappearance of a number of women in the neighbourhood of Labban where they ran an illegal (unlicensed) brothel. They were thought to be guilty of the robbery and murder of at least seventeen women, many of whom had worked for them as prostitutes. They were hanged in 1921.

Public attention focused on the sisters: the combination of their gender and the violence, sexual promiscuity and general unashamed degradation of their lives generated a fascination which fed into the many films and plays that dealt with their murders.

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

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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.

.

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Robin Moger Translates Salah Abdessabour

The Daybook of Bishr the Barefoot

Abu Nasr, Bishr bin al-Harith, sought out debate and discussion and heard all that was said and so inclined to mysticism. And one day he was walking through the market when, taking fright at the people there, he removed his sandals and slipped them beneath his arms and set off running through the sunbaked stones and sand, and none could keep pace with him. This was in the year 227 AH.

Leopold Müller, A barefoot man in robes running while holding a stick, 1878. Source: Wikipedia

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Robin Moger: From Ibn Arabi’s Turjuman al Ashwaq

I wish I knew

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Claudia Gerhard. Source: strkng.com

I wish I knew they knew what heart

they held. That my heart knew

what pass they tread. You wonder

Are they safe?

Or perished?

.

The enamoured are

in love adrift

ensnared.

 

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.

This is Robin Moger’s version of the first poem in Turjuman al Ashwaq

Robin Moger: Ahmad Yamani’s The Scream

Michael Donovan. Source: studiodonovan.com

My sister screamed in the night

Take me to my brother’s house

And there she screamed that same night

No no! Take me back to the house of my father

They took her back

And when she made to scream again

The night had passed

And the men had gone to work.

.

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Robin Moger: A New Poem by Mohab Nasr

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René Magritte, The Lovers. Paris, 1928. Source: moma.org

Life eternal might not be ours

but there’s what’s worse

that we are really forever

Music through earphones

casts no shadow

does not say to you when you must stop

nor through the earphones

signals No

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The Brimming Sea: More Ibn Arabi from Robin Moger

The Prophet Ilyas Rescues a Prince, from the Hamzanama, India, 1567-1572. Source: britishmuseum.org

Then the secret was there in my heart

and I was gone and my star set away

my heart by my lord’s secret changed and I

absented from the body’s feeling frame

wherefrom therewith I came

upon a ship of my high resolution

disposed therein my fortress thoughts

through a dark gulf of what I knew

unthought

.

and on my ship my longing blew

as winds, and so it passed

an arrow’s passage through the sea

and across that sea Approach I cut

till I perceived unsecret what

was without name. You!

.

I said, by my heart seen!

I loose an arrow at your love

for you are dear to me

and you are my festivity

the end of all my passion and my prize.

.

Ibn Arabi’s original poem can be found here.

Robin Moger Translates Saniya Saleh

The Storm Takes the Heart.

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Ian Berry, Hong Kong, 2002. Source: magnumphotos.com

.What does that glum sun search for in its useless

round and why does its purple body come apart

and endless discs come tumbling down from its

flaming core, followed by black birds

black and crossing over like the storm

whose eyes aglow with tears we barely glimpse, they come

out from the graves of the forefathers and make for Jordan.

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Robin Moger Translates Mohamed Al Maghout

The Dying of 1958 *

 

.

Not men them flaming in the rose gardens

but cubs who roared for the last time

beneath the north rains.

They shouldered history

like fruit crates borne across the mire

through the filthy schools, the brothels of the south.

.

I know them.

I know chivalry

dignity

the precepts flowing

over the backseats of taxis.

*

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Seat of a passenger who left the bus

WADIH SAADEH’S LANDMARK POEM IN ROBIN MOGER’S TRANSLATION

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Wadih Saadeh selling his poems on Hamra Street in Beirut, circa 1968. Source: al-ghorba12.blogspot

Farewell God I walk looking at my feet off to the cafe to meet my friends

Farewell I grow old the cafe in the square I mount two steps and sit

Heard Carmena Burana and went now the player sings alone

by the closed window

Light rain against the pane light rain against the port across the way

Farewell Four o’clock I have a date with my friends

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Robin Moger: Wadih Saadeh’s Dead Moments

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Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Bluewater Commercial Center, London, 1999. Source: magnumphotos.com

1

Suddenly the sunbeam disappeared. I believe a cloud is passing over the house. Sunbeams disappear for two reasons alone: clouds hide them or it is night. And being morning, most probably a cloud is passing.

Maybe soon it will rain and I will be able to watch the rain from the window. Life is so beautiful: that circumstances allowing one can watch the rain. Mine is a water sign and I imagine that now and then a planet up in space melts and flows down in front of me. Happy notion. I pick it up and approach the window. I open the pane and look out at the cars, the arid asphalt, the weary labourers. Why do these labourers get tired? I used to get tired myself sometimes and the sweat would flow, but then I turned my back on it and for years I rested. Sweat of the brow is hateful; shameful in fact. Disgusting: rising from sleep to make oneself sweat. A car goes by leaving a light cloud of dust behind it. A cat asleep on the corner opens then shuts its eyes. I close the window and slowly make my way back.

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