ترجمة الشاعر: خالد مطاوع
The roundabout devoured all the green around it, and bower of olives, towering date palms, apricot trees, vibrant grasses. Women stand in doorframes, the hollering children. I am at the well steps, a twisting stream of water under my feet, a mighty mulberry tree nearby, the sun’s swords pore into the green. I am watching the world crowded with women and noisy children, white washed mud houses, the hand of Fatima and a crescent. From the gate of the military base the sound of shouting, a tank plows the asphalted road.
I am watching the world in amazement, a pistol, a turned over car. Fear is eating me. Tripoli, that unsightly city, extends its streets under my father’s feet. I grip his hand, I cling to his woolen wrap-around jard. “Take off your dress, girl,” says the nurse. Two frightened breasts come unhinged and press against the cold X-ray machine. Surprise overwhelms me. I put my hand in my father’s hand. But a question becomes a whirlwind that wraps me in his jard. “I’m all grown up now, Father.” Tomorrow you will not take me to the sea. The sparrows will abandon me. Tomorrow is death.
A dog follow me, my mother is gasping behind me with a stick. Uncle Ibrahim1, the blind shopkeeper, points with his staff. The dog shocks me. My mother’s stick whips me. Tripoli adorns itself. Tripoli, I can no longer open my heart to the sun. Tripoli, you are suffocating. Oh, how I love my delirium in you, roaming your streets full of garbage and prostitutes. The sly tongues of your males lick the streets tracking the scent of a female! Hunger gnaws at me, and I pant seeking a tawny hue who might be “him.” But Tripoli, in disappointment after disappointment, makes me weep, and I cry for her too. Friends have all scattered. Each to his businessing. No more time for love.
Strip off your panties, girl!
Take off your jeans, boy!
No more time for love.
And Tripoli sobs its homemade tequila.
Of the delirium on that first of September night only this dose remains.
The country unravels in my hands, in my heart.
And you whom I seek to shelter me on this autumn night,
Solitary and desolate, you who dwell in me,
Where shall I set down my suitcase after all that roving?
I’ve been strewn between you and this country.
This harsh, compassionate, murdered and murderous country.
Shelters and exiles have strewn me, and my body tricked me and rose up in its own resurrection. And you too have scattered me, stole me from me, stole the glitter of my laughter, my neighing smiles, detained my tears so that I flood them into you. You tore me to pieces like Shiha2 among the provisions of her travelling sons, heading to Tunisia, a trip of no return. How you plunder me, you and this country!
Planted in the house of my father and my brothers, in Souq Al-Juma’a in Tripoli in Libya in Africa in the center of a wrecked, washed out world.
Say you’re a trifle, a nasty bastard, coward and liar, a pimp
until I leave this world without tears.
-1Uncle Ibrahim Al-Shibbo, the shopkeeper owned the only shop near the farm where I lived as a child. He was blind and sometimes asked us to sweep his shop for him, pointing to the places he wished to clean with his staff.
-2Shiha is the sister of the legendary warrior Abu Zaid Hilali. On his first voyage of exploration he took with him his sister Shiha’s three sons, Yahya, Mari’ and Younis. Shiha followed them and Abu Zeid asked her sons to go in different directions. He then told her that she can have back the son she chooses to follow. She responded to her predicament with these lines:
Riders of the traveling camels, turn them around!
I am losing my mind shuttling between you.