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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Conor Bracken Translates the late Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine: from “Scorpionic Sun”

Mars, Aries and Scorpio from the Wellcome Collection’s Persian Manuscript 373. Source: wellcomecollection.org

 

Gennevilliers

 

They got to know each other in Paris between two smoking faces which it was said were fired blanks. The machine guns launched black and yellow texts onto the café terraces. Ancestral huts and migraines crucified the gossiping sun of a late autumn in which convalescents were stretching out electrified limbs. One spoke adroitly about these rhymes bees of inconsistent blondeness. They weren’t listening or pretended not to hear. In their navel rooted the reign of a sphecoid wasp-star which itched throughout the discussion. They were anxious to go home however their legs had become the sole emblem of a museum of the nearby desert. They broke their ribs several times in the middle of the terrace. At a neighboring table the devil applied his makeup. At that very moment a tom-tom unleashed a drumbeat inside their stomachs and inexhaustible molecules. In their left lung Zodiac howled; and Time, whom one never meant to interrupt, plummeted incontinent and sat on their sentences, chewing them like birdshit. Time fled past the trashcans. Zodiac partied hard with long and bloody fireflies.

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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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Mustajab VII: The Countryside Photography of Khaled Al Shoura

Blessed is he who lays a flower on a tomb or a palace or a breast, is he who is born in the seventh month or the twelfth, is the throat become gorge, is he who slaughters his only horse out of kindness. Blessed is he who sinks to his knees pleading forgiveness or overcome with lust, is he who bears a cross upon his back, is he who boils a porridge of cement to hoodwink his children’s hunger, is the sniffer become snout, is the time when a wife could gather together the pieces of her helpmeet’s corpse and he would live, are the truths cowering in the crevices of falsehood, is the nation that feeds on the chatter of the worthless, is the nation that feeds on the prattling of the powerful, is the gulp become gullet. Blessed is he who fashions an ear from clay and an ear from dough until his head is severed, is a sun that still rises in the East, is a star that shines through on a cloudy day. Blessed be this tale, which would not have be told of Mustajab VII were it not for that incident, revealed to the world by a wordsmith whose father laboured as a screenwriter, wherein Mustajab VII secretly murdered Mustajab VI, sold his body to students studying dissection and with the proceeds erected a sumptious pavilion replete with dazzling lights and microphones that resounded with proverbial wisdom, to outfox foes and keep in remembrance the glorious exploits of Clan Mustajab, ancient and modern, then stood at its entrance to receive the sincerest of condolences. This is a slander against the man, which lays the very heart of truth to waste and strikes at the crux of our tale, the point at which it joins with what took place thereafter, for which reason we set over this incident an upturned water jar, and kept it hid.


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Brad Fox Does the Holy Quran

Detail from Umayyad Quran, before AD 725. Source: nybooks.com

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a train compartment from Casablanca to Marrakech with a Moroccan transport engineer, a Dutch-Italian couple, and a professor of Islamic culture back from Saudi Arabia for his summer holiday. The professor was talkative, repeatedly offering to buy everyone coffee and sandwiches. In a combination of fusha and a bit of English he went on about how people needed to know that Islam is not al-Qaeda and Da’esh, but love and friendship. At one point he asked us if anyone objected to him reciting a bit of the Qur’an. No one did, so he closed his eyes, pressed his fingertips together, and began reciting, quietly, beautifully. Afterward he asked the Dutch-Italian couple if they could feel the beauty of the language. Then, in the same voice and incantatory style, he said (in fushaI am going to a new city. I will arrive and look for a restaurant and a place to sleep.  He turned to them and asked if that felt different, but they couldn’t understand the question, and no one translated it, so we never got an answer. 

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The Unnamable Remains: Yasmine Seale translates Qasmuna bint Ismail

The Blood Moon from a 19th-century Thai manuscript, MS15760 at the British Library. Source: blogs.bl.uk

It is said that Qasmuna’s father, Ismail, enjoyed improvising verse with her. One day he said: ‘Finish this poem’.

I had a friend whose rare delight,

Though it rewarded care with spite,

Itself exonerated.

Qasmuna thought for a moment and replied:

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Ulayya bint al-Mahdi’s Epigram by Yasmine Seale

Gustav_Klimt_046

Gustav Klimt,  Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907. Source: Wikipedia

To love two people is to have it 

coming: body nailed to beams,

dismemberment.

But loving one is like observing

religion.

I held out until fever 

broke me. 

How long can grass

brave fire?

If I did not have hope

that my heart’s master’s

heart might bend to mine, 

I would be stranded, no

closer to gate than home.

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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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Yasmine Seale Translates Aisha al-Qurtubiyya

On being proposed to by a male poet

The Guennol Lioness, Mesopotamia, third millennium BC. Source: Wikipedia

I am a lioness: never will I let

my being be the break

on another’s journey.

.

But if that were my choice

I would not answer

to a dog, for to O!

how many lions

am I deaf.

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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Yasmine Seale Translates Saadia Mufarreh

Saul Leiter, 1959. Source: robertacucchiaro.wordpress.com

You’re not there 

but details linger. Who knows how

they trickle in and scurry out, 

how they hum like a knot

of sandgrouse caught

in the snare of distance, 

laying waste 

to silence, that stranger

not to be trusted,

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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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Yasmine Seale: A Poem by Dakhtanus bint Laqit

Six images of the Rub al Khali (Empty Quarter) by Stuart Franklin, 2008. Source: magnumphotos.com

He came early with the news:

the best of Khindif, full-grown

and young combined, is dead.

No one brought their enemies

more fear, nor saved so many

held captive. Their pearl. Excellent

in war, undaunted, always the one

to meet kings: it did them proud

when he spoke. His bloodline

was perfect: you could trace it

back, a column reaching all the way

to the tribe’s origin. As a bright star

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Valentine’s Gift: Nizar Qabbani by Yasmine Seale

The Jasmine Necklace

The Jasmine Necklace on pink paper in Nizar Qabbani’s neat hand. Courtesy of Yasmine Seale | قصيدة “طوق الياسمين” على ورق زهري بخط يد نزار قباني. مع الشكر للمترجمة

“Thank you for the jasmine necklace,”

you laughed, and I thought you knew

what it meant, this man’s gift of a garland

of jasmine. I thought you had understood.

.

You sat in a corner, brushing your hair,

drawing drops from a bottle of scent,

on your lips a tune, heartsick, French,

its complaint, like mine, pathetic.

.

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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

Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Self_portrait_with_bandaged_ear_F529

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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