The Shadow of the Night

To my friend Hassan Sharif, to his madness and breakdowns.

Fear crept into my corner
To share the evening cup with me,
Just as I was getting used to these naked days, to living With neither coat nor friends.
I might have managed to escape from it,

But our eyes met in a flash of hope, And fate built a bridge for us.

Together, we walked through the nights Leaning on a single cane.
The years piled up on our table
And we forgot that we were enemies, Just as friends forget they are friends. Fear became my shirt,

I opened my arms to it,
But instead of embracing me
It slipped into my heart.
We became each other’s nocturnal companion, Surviving on air and sorrow,
And now we have to pack our bags together And stand on the hill of angels
So they might choose us
To appear before God.
All these eras
For the sake of this fear that rooted in my heart, And still it’s embracing me
Like a mother who cannot cope with the loss.

He Said He Was Going

To M. A., who decided to go in the dark of night.

He said he was going home,
and he started walking without looking at anything or turning back.
He walked until he could no longer stop

or say goodbye.

In his corner
He closed his eyes to search
Within a well in his mind
For the shadows he’d left in their place
Since yesterday,
Like yesterday.
He heard the wind screaming like an enchantress In the water of his body.
The distance spoke to his heart in voices
He wanted to silence.
He shut his eyes to make them
Be quiet.
This time
He won’t be able to see them
Or know where they come from,
And he won’t be able
To stretch his hand to them
To make them be quiet,

Or make them go...
So he opened his eyes And left them there
To wander aimlessly Like kites
In a distant sky.

***

He said he was going to the river.
He started walking around the plains And the trees walked behind him until They burned in his love.
The ashes flew through the air,
So the birds came
And found no end of flesh:
They ate
Until they could sing no longer.
They ate
And forgot how they used to fly.

Translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid