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My Heart on the Table
Twenty-five Years Later! My Poem, Written in April 1998, Translated by Robin Moger (and Read by Me in the Original Arabic) in 2021…
I was not born on the mountaintops. but from the first the sea was my destination. wrestling the ghosts which pursue me was my singular work. exemplary. no, sadly. no, I was not born upon the mountaintops. and my childhood was without gardens. When I let my ghosts drift away to distant lands. I found night at my bedroom window. and I did not stop. until I grew tired of watching the stars. the day I lost my innocence in a whirlpool of light. and hated the sight of my city by day. I had to do something with myself. took time as my enemy before I knew what it was. and became used to sitting on the riverbank. watching the water as it ran on its way. caring nothing for associations of place. I learned to walk in streets that remained nameless. at least to me.
and to relish the fear that seeped through my body when I lost my way.
the ghosts abandoned me for sure when they took on the features of a crime. the trains started running late. and the price of tickets went up. almost like my dreams themselves were being abused. I woke to the beat of Africans’ drums. in the Indian colonnades. and saw a throng of Chinese women bearing me upon a wooden throne. destined to break. in the shadows of the minarets. I kissed my lover’s arse. and ran through the rolling fields alone. without a by-your-leave or caution. I smashed valuable things. that will never be mended ever again. I recorded my dreams on videotape. that no one would be able to censor. in the last watch of the night. I woke at ease. I went out into utterly anonymous streets. and in the public toilets left many memories. that give no clue to the sadness of endings. I built towers in the shadow of a broken toilet. and wondered uselessly. what it means to stand in the face of disaster. to honour Love’s choices. and about people who wander searching. about sleep on the Metro steps and a crust of stale bread. and how to order my orgasms on the list of priorities. too shy to praise my stink the time I gave up washing. and I tried more than one prescription. to draw out the starch building up inside me. every time I step onto a stage. I want to speak to a huge audience. though I have nothing to say. I want to bounce my news off seven satellites.
but I shall insist on drawing maps of the world. out of keeping with my lovers in hijab. I’ll tell my lover sitting all alone: when I meet you in ten years’ time—a mother with the world on her shoulders, a sex-dodging wife with her headache pills—I’ll remember nothing of our charged collisions. the last of your breaths will have fled my face for the last time. even the hand holding and long-distance swims. through fluids exuded by the body. but the world hangs on a train coming in on time. when the bomb fell. I did not wake afraid. that my life take shape at a distance. like grey clouds of smoke. much fear. some things nearby. and something repellent, like persistence. so far the lover hasn’t betrayed me. and every evening makes tea with great care. the lines of bitterness have begun to form on her face. my love, why do I feel a thing like boredom, a great indolence, when I think of visiting you? my love, you devour the pillow every night. months and not so much as a paper felucca has stirred your depths. floating on the smooth surface. I want…
my love, is the dust still yellow in the streets? are the buildings still coming down?
it didn’t rain tonight, not a single drop. I wanted the clatter of the raindrops. I wanted to explain to you, say. that we arrived to run away. I wanted. tonight no rain, not a drop. I don’t regret. going away without a goodbye. no one will ever know how it felt for me in the public toilets. others will never know. the taste of loneliness turning about. the boats will all sink. in a hollow lake. there has to be time to back out
and time is enough to break the wings
forget the days, only
lay your heart on the nearest