Shawqi Shafiq
Four poems from Shawqi Shafiq

Shawqi Shafiq

Four Poems

Translated by Sinan Antoon





Rub the heart’s ring

rub it well

to erase the dust of depression

Rub it again carefully

so that the wall of forgetfulness shines


draw a circle/put a dove, or two, inside it/watch the wings move (that is if there are any)

You will ask: What if the circle crumbles?

What if the dove flies away

or if I am bothered by the wings’ noise

I will say to you: erase the circle

for all the traces to disappear

or put a fresh woman

instead of the dove

to seek revenge

for the aridity of an apartment

devouring your mouth







1 The Alleged Poetess


The poetess who was fixing her braids

and combing her body with perfume

and heavy makeup

in an attempt to sweeten her poem,

when that alleged poetess ascended

to recite what she alleged

to be her poem

the poem fell.

Her braids, makeup and lipstick remained,

the alleged poetess remained

a poetess




2 The Alleged Poet


The poet who was alone with his corpse

in a room full of his corpse,

a suitcase of obvious confusion,

numerous watches, and some empty bottles

leftover from old nights and alleged wars

the poet who described the arrest

of one of his fellow poets

as an ordinary event

as something which happens even in best-case scenarios

that poet who never let go

of the bottle in his mouth

did not teach the alleged poetess

how to write poetry

He taught her an empty corpse

which fills the room





1: Taste


I did not eat anything after you


in order not to lose your taste

in my mouth



2: Glistening


A knee glistened in the darkness,

a sufficient reason for the bird

to be shaken


3: Freshness


When he sat on the chaise longue

he felt a certain softness

he did not realize that he was sitting on a fresh thigh


4: Completion


There are three men

drawing one woman in the room

When the woman was completed

there was so much woman

the room gasped



5: A Meal


There are many cats in the garbage bin

bread crumbs


and there is also a meal

for an informant disguised as a madman



6: Scene


When my hand was resting on the table

it saw a raging breast

It spoke to it

tried to calm it, but it erupted

My hand got up to teach it the wisdom of patience

but the breast ripped open the dress

and went out to bite my hand’s horizon

When my hand could not repel it

it got up to kiss the breast’s hand





Flies, it is said, are repelled by smoke

I wonder

what kind of smoke

would repel informants?


Four of seven poems selected from the Yemen feature in Banipal 36