Girgis Shukry
Girgis Shukry
Four Poems

A LIFE

He never learned to read;
His soul was bothered by the differences among the letters.

He never lived in a house;
His eyes got lost among the windows

He never loved a woman.
Deep secretive emotions
passed this way and that through him in silence.

He realized that friends
are a few streets and pubs
that change constantly.

And it is said that he died
when he began to distinguish
between night and day.



THE MEANING OF TRAGEDY


1.
Jacob stole his brother’s blessings
and bought his primogeniture with a meal of lentils
after he conspired with his mother to deceit his father.

Jacob also stole his uncle’s sheep and his cousin’s gold
and slunk away like a mouse
and became a prophet named Israel.

And in this way the Lord was able
to teach mankind the meaning of tragedy.


2.
Judas said,
“I sold my master
and was called a traitor
and hanged myself.

I love him more than any of you.
What would he have done without me?
I, who gave him the final scene
in his tragedy.”


3.
She said, after her death,
“I am a blind bomb;
I ride a mute plane
and believe
that I can explode life
when I smile.”
And the dead say the bomb is blameless,
only war is blind
because we watch it stripped on live broadcasts
and did not die of embarrassment.


4.
As he lifts the lid
the chicken weeps
pleads:
“Brother, why did you slit my throat?”
He turns around her comfortingly.
Then she leaves alone
having filled the bowl with her tears.
And he chews them and prays
for the Lord to bless her spirit


5.
And he says to himself,
if I were a donkey I would have smiled and died of happiness



A HISTORY

One evening
night rushed out angrily at the people of the city
with a weapon they had never known.
He butchered their dreams and carried their women away
to a dark carriage.
When the men woke up
they were angry
and their tears wet their feet.
They waited until night
to seek their revenge.

But each time night came
they fell into a deep sleep
and woke up
screaming with tears wetting their feet
and waited for night to come again
and to seek their revenge of him.

This is how my ancestors died at night
without bells or wailing.
They were asleep

and we found
that we love our father, Night.

We pray to him
and every evening
we pour him in our last drink.



A GOOD MAN TALKS TO HIMSELF

1.

I am a camera,
a huge storehouse of memories.
I capture everything
and am aware of nothing.
I’ve remembered wars
until they became my memory,
a storehouse of explosives,
and I began to forget the image of the one I love
in my coffee cup.
And I talk to myself, talk to things
about an ancient country
that once inhabited this air
then passed on like music,
and talk about a people
who carried their animals and houses
each morning
and entrusted them to sea to protect.
They usually fell out of their own coats
and left the air empty around them.

Then it suffices me to bit the lip of a woman
every night
as we take off our underpants
and command our limbs to work silently
so the scenery is not perturbed.
And I talk to myself once again.
I am a camera,
I capture all that is delusive and empty
and usually my films become overexposed
due to laughter.

2.
This is how the good man came to keeping his smile under his pillow
and to sleeping without rebellions he was bound to lose in the morning.
And like an animal shaking his tale
talking to himself
I used to feel embarrassed
by women fumbling under my trousers
and I aged a whole epoch on a single night without my mother noticing.
And I learned fear.
and began to shy away from God at funerals
and began to hate death.
During history lessons I chewed on my fingers,
and saw my father dead above the black board.
Don’t believe me for I am a good man
who loses the planet earth
in his coffee cup every morning.

And this is not a human being.
This is extra time that the spectators split among themselves.
The sum of the moments he expends on each scene
is an extended age span and a wasted life.


3.
Do you love me?
– You know I love you.

Henceforth in a repeated scene
yesterday’s cold meal sat on the table,
but on its way to the waste basket began protesting.
And I talk to myself about a fear that sleeps in my bed
weeping or smiling
like a warrior who mixes up his defeats with his playing cards
then splits the difference in laughter.

Do you love me?
– You know I love you.

Henceforth, it is my corpse jumping at its nightshirt and they quarrel.
The photo is of a poor tavern
where language learns to stoop low
and the drunk believes that philosophy is the product of the gods and the profession of
their fathers.
Then he forgets his beloved’s face in the mirror,
and he opens the gates of night, slightly shorter and wearing colorful clothes.

Do you love?
This third time
she disappeared like a dim light
and he realized that he gives his loved ones the gift of sleep,
and that he stays up at night talking to himself
about a good man who resembles a camera.


Translated by Khaled Mattawa
from the author’s collections Wal-Aidi Utalatun Rasmiya (2004) and
Rajulun Tayib Yukalimu Nafsah (1998), published by Sharqiyat, Cairo.