Girgis Shukry
Girgis Shukry
A Poem

One of three poems

by Girgis Shukry

Translated by Paul Starkey


When morning is like a shabby shirt
noon a jacket with no sleeves
and night a pair of tattered shoes
I know that a graveyard is shouting,
seeking a new visitor
and that there is no time to wait.

That is what he would say.
And we were always
preparing for a funeral.

Whenever we saw someone
contemplating his clothes
our tears would flow
and one of us disappear forever.

He said:
This is my head.
Go there,
you’ll find a chair
with Death sitting on it
and another one empty.

A musician stands between them
paying no attention,
he plays for the empty chair
and turns his back on Death.

Tell him:
My master needs some music.

While he lives
his feet will carry him
he doesn’t know where

His hands will betray him
in handshakes with strangers
without faces.
Then he will learn sorrow.

He will live in a dream,
content to nurture time
and when he dies
no one will recall this tale.

He died in the market
after making a speech
which shattered the lives of those present.

After a long laugh, he cried:
Woe to you, O people!

Tears fell around his shouts.
Then they put his death up for sale
but no one came forward.

He carried his head to a distant land
where people do not bury their dead.
They keep them in the open air
and when it rains
each corpse lifts its umbrella
and guards its soul itself.

Don’t believe him,
this is a man who woke late from sleep
and found, instead of his head, a hammer
that dances when he wakes
and guards his soul when he sleeps.
He wept for what was left of his limbs,
in fear, and his wailing never ceased.

It’s not me who was here.
I don’t enter my house twice
I don’t wear my shirt twice
I don’t see my face in the mirror
and always feel pain.

I forget the meaning,
cross out the future,
throw my shoes in the river
straight away
and teach my feet to love the earth.

So he started to dream
onto a big table he put
houses without people, bare trees

The earth disappeared
and his feet had nowhere to go
and there was a fire, raging, in his head.
Don’t believe him,
this is a man
who woke and found the mirror blank.

Published in Banipal 63 – The 100 Best Arabic Novels

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