Adam Fet'hi
A poem remembering Cavafy . . .

One more poem by Adam Fet'hi  . . .

 

Translated by Camilo Gomez-Rivas

 

 

CAVAFY’S WHIP

 

The prickly pear,

thorny, of wily fingers, friend to Tunisians on wedding nights

(when the grains of chance ripen) and eid mornings, when

halawa calms

the tufts of burnouses.

 

The prickly pear,

wily, of thorny fingers, polite in this, preserves

your cry “What will we do without barbarians?”

And it doesn’t stand up for its kind

when called

a Berber fig*, for example

 

How polite

too, like Dido’s bull, when it wags its tail with joy at your enduring question

“What will we do without barbarians?”

Wondering how its skin can lose the kind, to become

a Berber city, the first last letter

of its name,

Carthage, for example

 

Trapped in their bodies (last of the birds of majesty), they come to the end of the journey, stumbling over one obstacle after another,

carrying money sacks of dreams on their shoulders

to a place where there is no window for fresh air

other than Berber poetry. As if the wild man

said, here they are

in their cages of refinement

politely watching their kind

die out,

being replaced with blind names,

the virtuous citizen, for example

 

Why then say they were a kind of solution, the Berbers?

Or were they the dissolution of the kind?

Or were they the front ranks of ostriches, crossing, disburdened

of their dreams, one sack at a time, in order to

arrive quickly

not knowing

where?

 

The caravan slept while they walked.

It slept, Cavafy.

The cracking of your whip will not incite them: “What will we do without barbarians?”

That was a whip for another sleep.

 

Now tell me:

What can we make without dreams?

 

 

* Arabic for prickly pear is teen Hindi, ie, Indian fig

 

 

 

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