My hunger for love exceeds me
Which has been a continuous annoyance
Although possibly a passe
But I do love both women
And the people who imagined God differently
It is a strange game
My hunger for love exceeds me
Which has been a continuous annoyance
Although possibly a passe
But I do love both women
And the people who imagined God differently
It is a strange game
Every year, on the 19th of Ramadan, Aisha would pack some clothes and food and head out to the mountains on the outskirts of the village of Dhuha. She would sit in one particular cave, think about her place in the universe, and attempt to purify her heart. Jealousy was never an emotion she struggled with. Even when Omar, whom she had hoped to marry, proposed to her neighbor, she felt no resentment. As painful as it was, she prayed for their happiness.
What attracted her to Omar was the kindness of his heart. Once, he noticed a bird near the trunk of a tree, and for some reason its mother would not come down from its perch. Maybe it had no way of helping its offspring. Perhaps it was afraid of people. In any case, Omar would come every day, feed it seeds, and help it drink from a saucer of water. He would cup the creature gently in his palms and extend it towards the mother bird, hoping it would fly. But it never did. When it died, he dug a small hole for it by the tree trunk and buried it. She spied him wiping his eyes, and prayed that he would father her children. When that hope evaporated, she accepted it and endured her disappointment.
Storyteller: Salima Abd Alsadeg Abu Khasheem
May God curse the devil, and keep us safe from his schemes.
There is a man who is married to two young women. One is white, the other black. The white woman ridicules the other for her color and constantly reminds her, You are only a servant.
Each one of them had a daughter. When the black woman sends food to the white woman, she doesn’t let her daughter eat it, or even taste it; when she gets it, she tosses it away for the dogs and says, Beware of her food, it makes you sick.
When the white daughter visits the black woman, she gives her candy and lets her play with her own daughter. But when the black daughter visits the white woman, she strikes her and throws her out. The white woman tells people bad things about the black woman, and as the saying goes, Two wives wreck a man’s home.
To Youssef Rakha
Revolution is a brand
Come again in proper clothes
And say that you love me
Do this before I die
My body is good for figure drawing
It is dark enough
And it has unusual curves
I’ve never used the word “adhesion” in my poems
I am tired
I am actually dead
But having dinner
I don’t exist here
I arrived earlier
To have coffee
And read literature
I loved everyone
The good part
Is that all of us will perish
I’d rather think about a young woman with child and a young man in love with her even though he’s not the father of her child, the two of them are the only ones in the world, and he, the young man, is thinking that the young woman makes him so happy that even though he isn’t the father of the child she’s carrying he has to help her, they have to find a place where she can give birth, the young man thinks, and then the two of them, the man and the woman, go off to find a place somewhere and someone who can help, but as they’re walking it starts to rip and tear inside the young woman’s body and then they’re at a farm, they go up and knock on the door but no one opens up, so either there’s no one home or else no one wants to open the door for them, but the house is dark so probably there’s no one there, so they go into the hay barn, there are some cows in the stalls, some sheep walking around in the main part of the barn, and it’s probably the heat that the animals are giving off that makes it less cold in the barn than it is outside, so the girl lies down in the straw and there she gives birth to a baby and she says that an angel has told her she would give birth to a baby boy so it must be a boy, she says, and she says that the angel told her not to be scared because God was with her and the young man sees that a light is coming from the child, an incomprehensibly beautiful light, and then the young woman takes her breast and she gives it to the baby and the boy falls silent, and he sucks, he sucks, the young man thinks, and everything about it is unbelievable because there’s such a strange light shining from the baby lying there at the young woman’s breast, then she looks up at the young man and she smiles at him and the young man thinks that this, this light, no, he can’t understand it, because this light from the child in the darkness
— from The Other Name: Septology I-II by Jon Fosse, translated by Damion Searls
Old Bergamo lay on the summit of a low mountain, hedged in by walls and gates, and New Bergamo lay at the foot of the mountain, exposed to all winds.
One day the plague broke out in the new town and spread at a terrific speed; a multitude of people died and the others fled across the plains to all four corners of the world. And the citizens in Old Bergamo set fire to the deserted town in order to purify the air, but it did no good. People began dying up there too, at first one a day, then five, then ten, then twenty, and when the plague had reached its height, a great many more.
And they could not flee as those had done, who lived in the new town.
There were some, who tried it, but they led the life of a hunted animal, hid in ditches and sewers, under hedges, and in the green fields; for the peasants, into whose homes in many places the first fugitives had brought the plague, stoned every stranger they came across, drove him from their lands, or struck him down like a mad dog without mercy or pity, in justifiable self-defense, as they believed.
How long is a life avoiding the beach? believing God spoke through my father some found seashell pushed off a shelf I cannot bury. I’d like to think there are aisles of men praying somewhere once I’m gone/that their tongues wrap around where I kept warm like a turban woven in prayer by strangers/that I am not found stiff/half hanging off a hotel bed under a phrasebook in another useless language/I hope I go dreaming in Arabic/because love there sounds like the wind passes through every vowel/somewhere buried in my voice there is asphalt singing as brothers build rooms for one another/I find new corners in case I come back/everyone gets a duaa to float across the lake and watch disappear/this is mine.
K. Eltinaé is a Sudanese poet of Nubian descent. His work has appeared in World Literature Today, The African American Review and About Place Journal, among others. He can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
“The hope of reason lies in the emancipation from our own fear of despair.” … It is not despair that is the agent of imprisonment, not despair that keeps us, (or reason), in a state of unfreedom in need of emancipation; but rather fear. The problem is not despair, but our being afraid to feel despair. In other words, it is not pessimism that is a challenge to the liberating effects of rational hope, but our fearful dismissal of it. It is optimism itself that keeps us from achieving what optimism hopes for. Optimism is its own worst enemy; it is self-destructive … Kierkegaard suggests [we] give in to despair … Any life that isn’t fundamentally lived in submission to God is a life lived in despair anyway, whether it is lived in pursuit of aesthetic enjoyment, or in pursuit of fundamental ethical commitments. The problem is that both sorts of life unavoidably must involve various kinds of mechanisms for covering over despair, of distracting us from it. But such mechanisms cannot succeed forever, and in fact the mechanisms usually only serve to make things worse. So the advice is just to cut to the chase, to choose hopelessness. Despair is the necessary step to God, so being openly in despair is better than trying to fool yourself that you’re actually not; and in this sense despair takes you closer to God and to genuine hope.
— from “Hope & Despair: Philosophical considerations for uncertain times” by Michael Stevenson
In the endlessness of life’s cyclical wheel, in the dangerous neutrality of man’s mortal effulgence, and or the cowardly barricade of the conflictual rhythms of his existence, he often misappropriates songs without adequately supplying the right dances to them.
“Don’t sing a song,” he said. “If you cannot find the perfect dance for it.”
Those were the exact words by my father (translated from Yoruba) in 1991 after I’d told him I wanted to join the Nigerian Army so one day I could be a military president. Years later, I would still, in my head, shuffle the judgmental finality of his words, probe at its proverbial complexity and perplexity, and ultimately resign from that variegated prodding of the wheel that will never cease to turn. A song is a song is a song, and a dance is a dance is a dance. Period!
riley montana slaps the runway
behind the scene it is 30°C
the same temperature a body doesn’t need
to start decomposing—
the body sashays away in a blue blazer
catwalks to a stop in a dirndl
hundred irises of a palazzo
& when the body stops it stops only
to let the world have a view of itself through the bow-bridge of legs
“The Ruins” is a term borrowed from pre-Islamic poetry, in which “weeping over the ruins” is a favorite gharad; the word gharad, which literally means “purpose” and roughly corresponds to genre, is used to indicate not so much a poem’s theme as the driving force behind its utterance.
Josh Calvo is a writer who also translates from Hebrew and Arabic, among other languages dead and alive. He can be reached at this email.
Then the rains washed over the ruins, like a book whose text is written and rewritten….
— Labid (d. 661)
For reasons he has kept to himself, Hakham Abraham Yeshaya Dayan–—born around the turn of the nineteenth century in Aleppo, and risen to become a rabbinic leader in its Jewish community, authoring several religious and scholarly books which have now become obscure, the world to which they are addressed having disappeared and the city in which they were to be read and applied having become in the hundred years since he lived unfathomably and irreversibly unrecognizable—decided suddenly, with the dawning of what would be the decade before his death, that the time had come for him to walk along the walls of his ancient city in search of signs from its long history. For want of some sense of his inner motivations, of what he beheld in his mind whenever he tried to see Aleppo in times he cannot have known, of what image of the city as he knew it over his own lifetime had been building itself in his memory, I can discover little more than he himself has admitted—or that has, by chance or by force, admitted itself—into his words. The nineteenth-century Hakham would not have needed to describe the impression left in mind by what he could still see outside: like the feeling of what remained of what once was: or the music of the undead voices of those who lived before: the cold stone of a synagogue surviving in the walls of a mosques: or the distant echoing of King David’s cavalry and Mongol horses heard faintly, aloft the wind from faraway mountains. And now that the Aleppo he knew has smoldered and will never again be seen, what remains are only these silent words by which it will never be described.
“In the Name of the Merciful” let night begin.
I must light lamps without her – at every shrine?
God then is only the final assassin.
On a hot summer afternoon, I find out that the eighth world of Super Mario Bros. is laid out like a labyrinth. The earlier seven Bowsers that have been killed were false bowsers. The real Bowser must be found and defeated in this last world. It is almost impossible to find a way out of the dark underground with dangerous Koopa Troopas keeping a careful watch, Goombas that must be trampled upon, and a sea of lava flowing beneath – at the end of which stands the ultimate enemy. The king of the kingdom possesses immense strength, is almost indestructible, and has mastered the occult arts. He almost always conspires against Mario but in the RPG series he occasionally collaborates with Mario to defeat evil greater than himself.
“Who is god?” my grandmother reads aloud from a newspaper at a distance while peeling baby potatoes.
As polytheism gave way to monotheism, the One accrued the personalities of the gods he encompassed: from benevolent Mesopotamian deities, to the Canaanite warrior Baal, to Tiamat, the serpent of chaos. The same bipolar God would have to create and destroy—raising, for the first time, the problem of evil that the innocent, suffering Job so pitifully invokes. For [Jack] Miles, monotheism became “the story of a single God struggling with himself,” the divided image we are condemned to replicate in our daily lives…
Trapped within his own contradictions, God devised an astonishing way out, according to [Mile’s] second book, Christ… If the omnipotent God cannot liberate his chosen people, nor claim that oppression is his will, “then he must admit defeat”… if he cannot beat the enemy, “God may declare that he has no enemies,” that he loves all men equally, and urge men to do the same… In Christ, Miles portrayed Jesus not as a historical rebel but as the Tanakh’s God incarnate, and read the New Testament as his continuing biography… Arriving in the body of a Nazarene peasant, with a pacifist temperament so different from his usual self, God will, in the words of St. Paul, reconcile the world to himself.
— from “God, the Editor” by Anna Della Subin, on harpers.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
he stayed me
“What do you reckon that is?” Abu Imad said, tapping the scope. He looked at me, rubbing his bushy beard thoughtfully. He wanted me to make the two-meter journey to take a look.
“I’m all right here to be honest,” I said, looking at Abu Imad’s powerful frame. In my experience, God creates two types who stay on for the long haul. Either the rugby player variety or the wiry knife wielding sort, used to taking down bigger opponents. Abu Imad belonged to the former.
“Come,” he insisted, “come.”
I didn’t really feel like giving him my opinion. I didn’t want to entertain the mad shit bouncing around his head. What’s it going to be? Either some mountain goat or a hardy plant that has somehow emerged out of this cruel valley where we’d been stuck for years. What new excitement could this brother show me? We hadn’t progressed against the enemy, not because we were weak but because the commanders were arguing sometimes over strategy, sometimes over tactics, most of the time over honour and on rare occasions about God. In spite of them, we held this crag. We were mountain lions in courage and mountain goats in stubbornness.
“Come,” he pleaded, “check it.”
One day, just another still, warm day in February, there was you… Sometimes I wonder why there wasn’t something to suggest the birthing pains of this love: a camel-shaped eyelash, a rainbow above my roof, frogs raining, a tree bursting into yellow bloom overnight, a snatch of a song. But there was nothing. Not even a twitching eyelid or a skipped beat of the pulse. And yet, now when I think of the time before you, all I think of is this grey and metallic sheen of the strangled day and the death-like silence of the night.
Last Sunday the neighbours brought me a glass of something tall, cold and sweet. They had a name for it: thandai.
Did I know there was opium in it? I did. Why didn’t I say no? Probably because I wanted to know where it would lead me. Opium. Melded into milk and almonds and chilled so the sweet creaminess could slide down my throat while a foot soldier in black crept through my veins to the silly point of my brain.
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
In the mid-Seventies, Niall Griffiths — aged 11 — left Toxteth, Liverpool with his family to Australia. His mother was too homesick to become a “Ten Pound Pom“, however, and the family went back to Liverpool only three years later. As a teenager who wanted to write, the future author of Sheepshagger (2001) felt constricted and insulted by the “posh” monopoly on education and literature. He left school for Snowdonia in Wales, where he had ancestral connections and developed a feeling for the landscape. Stump (2003) having won both the Welsh Books Council and the Arts Council of Wales Book of the Year awards, it is often as a Welsh writer that Griffiths is celebrated, although he equally qualifies as Scouse and, as a writer of “progressive fiction” peopled with the dispossessed and the disaffected, he also belongs in a vernacuar Transatlantic tradition. Griffiths eventually graduated from the University of Aberystwyth, where he now lives, having spent many years working with his hands and hopping from the North of England to Wales, traveling across Britain, or beyond.
In some ways, yes, in others, no. . . I mean, this is a united kingdom supposedly but divide and rule has always been in operation, due largely to the entrenched class system. So in opposition to that, I believe that a docker from Swansea should recognise that he has more in common with a docker from say, Hull, than he does with a middle-class professional from Swansea. That said, England still remains the biggest and by far the most powerful country in the UK, and he fact that Wales and Scotland are ruled by London will always be a source of anger for as long as it lasts. It’s the richest country too, and a certain strata of it tends to see Wales and Scotland as its playground. No attention is paid to the different cultures; they’re simply countries where the rich English can holiday in their second homes. This situation is even worse in Cornwall.