Translated from the Arabic by Yasmine Seale


             do not think
this is about me
a cheap fiction, this self
a tunnel underground
and the steps of language leading down
all gnawed away by mice
rock like loose planks


the one time I tumbled in, I heard hoots of laughter rising from my belly, full of phrases
I have to say to you, the similes that are in fact like nothing, the words I stuff your ears
with day and night—day night tree bird cloud grass sun—as I work in a neon-lit office


that one time, my ears rang without mercy
I covered them and ran to the top floor
to write poems about humanity and the ugliness of war
about aloneness in the existential sense
about the love that gets around by hearse


poetry hoots in the tunnel
eyes wide in the bluish skull
like sheep to slaughter
and slowly my voice rises
             in the name of God the Merciful the Compassionate
             day night tree bird cloud grass sun
the words’ necks shine
ready to be shorn


إيّاكم أن تصدّقوا أنّني أعبّر الآنَ عن ذاتي
إنّها بدعةٌ لا تساوي قشرة بصلة
فذاتي قبوٌ غائرٌ في بطن الأرضِ
وسلالمُ اللغة إليه نخرَتْها فئرانٌ ضخمةٌ
فهرهرتْ مثل خشبٍ منشور

في المرّة الوحيدة التي سقطتُ داخله، سمعتُ قهقهاتٍ عاليةً تَسخرُ من كرشي المترع
بالتعابير التي عليّ أن أقولها لكم، بالتشبيهات التي، في الواقع، لا تُشْبِهُ شيئًا، بالمفردات التي
سأحشو آذانكم فيها ليل نهار، الليل.. النهار..
الأشجار.. الطير.. السحاب.. العشب.. الشمس.. بينما أعمل في مكتبٍ مضاءٍ بالنّيون

في المرّةِ الوحيدةِ تلك، طنّتْ أذناي طنينًا بلا رحمة. أطبقتُ عليهما وهرعتُ إلى الطابق العلويّ
أكتبُ قصائدَ عن الإنسانيّة وبشاعة الحروب 
وعن العزلة ومنظورها الوجوديّ 
وعن الحبّ المجرور بعربة موتى

الشّعر يقهقه في القبو
تجحظ عيناه من جمجمته المزرقّة مثل كبشٍ في ملحمة
:منها يخرج صوتي الوئيد
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
..الليل.. النهار.. الأشجار.. الطير.. السحاب.. العشب.. الشمس
وكانت أعناق الكلمات مصقولةً
وجاهزةً للجزّ

Asmaa Azaizeh is a poet, essayist, and editor based in Haifa. In 2010 Asmaa received the Debutant Writer Award from Al Qattan Foundation for her volume of poetry Liwa, (2011, Alahlia). She has published two other volumes of poetry: As the woman from Lod bore me (2015, Alahlia) and Don’t believe me if I talk of war (2019) in Arabic, Dutch, and Swedish. Asmaa has also published a bilingual poetry anthology in German and Arabic, Unturned stone (2017, Alahlia). She has contributed to and participated in various journals, anthologies, and poetry festivals around the world. Her poems have been translated into English, German, French, Persian, Swedish, Spanish, Greek, and more. Currently, she works as an editor for the Raseef22 newspaper.
Yasmine Seale is a British-Syrian writer living in Paris. Her essays, poetry, visual art, and translations from Arabic and French appear widely, including in Harper’s, the Paris Review, and the Times Literary Supplement. She is currently working on a new translation of One Thousand and One Nights for W. W. Norton. Agitated Air: Poems after Ibn Arabi, a collaborative project with Robin Moger, is forthcoming from Tenement Press.