Peaceful Garden

In honor of Revolution Day, we present this work by one of Egypt’s great modern poets.

Abbas al-Aqqad
Egyptian
1889 – 1964

 

My garden stretches under death’s shadow,
But life moistens it with dew of golden fallow.
A sieve dissipates clouds of miasmic grit
Protecting trees from its noxious flit.
Birds bearing an air of melancholy
Dream to soar with drunken jolly.
My heart finds itself, in all this abundance
Smelling scents of such soft fragrance.
Like an eye at night, awake it tries to keep
But falls to fatigue, overcome by sleep.
From one state to another, a faraway distraction
grips it, and then awakens renewed attraction.
A dream, through its vision, becomes reality
Caressed by tenderness and much dexterity.
Thus, as a dream, beauty is detected
When at night its gilded veil is ejected.
Heaven’s gift, this land with furrows plowed.
To solitary souls its great bounty allowed.
Fresh and light, winds gentle and restful
Blown from another world seem so peaceful.
Here, ghosts of all stripes meet
Lost souls remorseful in defeat.
Let’s hope the respite that is our fate’s master
Unites at once those here and in the hereafter.
Before the last breath, to what aim
To whine? to worry? An effort so lame.

Noah’s Flood

Amal Donqol
Egyptian
1940 – 1983

 

Noah’s flood is coming nearer!
The city is sinking little… by little
Birds flee
And water rises
On the steps of houses
Shops
The post office
Banks
Statues (of our immortal ancestors)
Temples
Wheat sacks
Maternity hospitals
The prison gate
The State House
The corridors of fortified barracks.
Birds are leaving
Slowly…
Slowly…
Geese on the water float
Furniture floats…
And a child’s toy…
And a gasp of a sad mother
Young women on the roofs waver!
Noah’s flood is coming nearer
Here are “the wise men” fleeing to the ship
The singers, the prince’s horseman, the usurers, the judge of judges
(And his Mamlouk…),
The sword bearer, the temple dancer
(She rejoiced when she picked up her wig…)
Tax collectors, weapons importers,
The princess’s lover in his radiant effeminate manner
Noah’s flood is coming nearer.
Here are the cowards fleeing to the ship
While I was…
The city’s youth were
Bridling the unruly horse of the water
Carrying water on both shoulders.
And racing time
They were building stone dams for themselves
Hoping to save the bosom of youth and civilization
Hoping to save…the homeland!
…the master of the Ark shouted at me—before the advent
Of quietude:
“Escape from a country…where the spirit is no longer!”
I said:
Blessed are those who ate its bread…
In days of prosperity
And turned their back on it
In times of adversity!
Glory to us, we who have stood
(God has obliterated our names!)
to defy destruction…
And seek refuge in a mountain that doesn’t die
(They call it ‘the people’!)
We refuse to flee…
And we refuse to wander!
My heart, knit with injuries
Cursed by commentaries
Is resting, now, on the city’s remains
A blossom bland
Still…
After it said “No” to the ship …
and loved the homeland

All the People Stood

Hafez Ibrahim
Egyptian
1871 – 1932

 

All the people stood watching how I build the bases of joy on my own
And the pyramid builders at the beginning of time made me speechless during competition
I’m pride’s crown on the middle east’s head and its achievements are the jewels on my necklace
My pride in the beginning of time is huge Who has like my pride and joy?
If I die one day you will never see the middle east raising its head again
I’m free and I have broken my chains in regards to the enemy and I’ve cut my slavery
Did you see me when I broke my life and still didn’t reach my peak yet?
Is it fair that they free their lions while my own lion is still slaved ?
God looked at me and demanded my sons ,so they pulled towards joy in such a powerful way
I promised joy with the best of my men So, Please finish my promise today
And raise my country on knowledge and good conduct Because knowledge alone isn’t powerful
We bypass a situation in which all the beliefs are contradicting And the contradiction of beliefs is harmful
Therefore, Stand strong and powerful and be prepared!

A Letter in My Purse

We present this work in honor of the 5th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Shaimaa al-Sabbagh
Egyptian
1984 – 2015

 

I am not sure
Truly, she was nothing more than just a purse
But when lost, there was a problem
How to face the world without her
Especially
Because the streets remember us together
The shops know her more than me
Because she is the one who pays
She knows the smell of my sweat and she loves it
She knows the different buses
And has her own relationship with their drivers
She memorizes the ticket price
And always has the exact change
Once I bought a perfume she didn’t like
She spilled all of it and refused to let me use it
By the way
She also loves my family
And she always carried a picture
Of each one she loves

What might she be feeling right now
Maybe scared?
Or disgusted from the sweat of someone she doesn’t know
Annoyed by the new streets?
If she stopped by one of the stores we visited together
Would she like the same items?
Anyway, she has the house keys
And I am waiting for her

A Strange Heart

Gamina El Alaily
Egyptian
1907 – 1991

 

O God, my heart is dreadful. How can I revive it?
Who can lull and calm down my heart?
The sound of arrogance is deafening my ear today,
I would have talked to it had I not had self-praise.
Strange my heart has become when in love.
Pure love it is, anyone to perceive?
I have become flabbergast at my ordeal,
I conceal none of my love fears.
I ask God to inspire me.
Do I have a living heart or should I lament its death?

Be Safe, O Egypt

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 140th birthday.

Mostafa Saadeq Al-Rafe’ie
Egyptian
1880 – 1937

 

Be safe, O Egypt; I will sacrifice
There is my hand for you, if the world raised a hand to hurt you
Never you shall yield, ever
I am hoping for tomorrow to be better
My heart and my determination are with me for strife
And to my heart, O Egypt, you are a faith, in addition to my religion
Safety for you, O Egypt
And peace, O my homeland
If the world threw arrows at you
I would shield you by my heart
And be safe in all times
I am an Egyptian, built by the founders of the
everlasting pyramid, who defeated doom
The pyramids stand beside us
Against the world’s arrogance, is as my stand
In my defense and struggle for my country
I do not turn away, tire, or yield
Safety for you, O Egypt
And Peace, O my homeland
If the world threw arrows at you
I would shield you by my heart
And be safe in all times
Hey, you who are trying to chain our orbits
There is no star in the sky under your control
The homeland of freemen is a sky that cannot be possessed
And the freemen own its horizons
There is no enemy that can attack you, O land of Egypt
We are all for your protection
Safety for you, O Egypt
And Peace, O my homeland
If the world threw arrows at you
I would shield you by my heart
And be safe in all times
To highness, O sons of Egypt, to highness
And honor the future by Egypt
The whole world is to save our Egypt, because
we put our country’s sake first
My left side has my heart
And my homeland is the heart of my right side
Safety for you, O Egypt
And Peace, O my homeland
If the world threw arrows at you
I would shield you by my heart
And be safe in all times

Farewell

Ibrahim Nagi
Egyptian
1898 – 1953

 

Leave me, my love, it’s time to part
this paradise is not my portion.
I had to cross a bridge of flame whenever
I visited this land of bliss.
Yet I’ve been your life-long companion
since earliest youth and your tender years.
But now I come like a transient guest,
and go away like a bird of passage.
Has anyone drunken with love like us,
seen love like we have seen it?
We built a thousand castles on our way,
Walked together on a moon-drenched road,
Where joy danced and leapt before us,
we gazed at the stars that fell, and we possessed them.
And we laughed like two children together,
ran and raced with our own shadows.
After this nectar’s sweetness we awoke –
how I wished it had never been so!
Night’s dreams had vanished, the night was ended
the night that used to be our friend.
The light of morning was an ominous herald;
dawn loomed up like a wall of fire.

What Is the Moon

In honor of Muharram, we present this work by one of Egypt’s greatest Muslim poets.

Ahmad Shawqi
Egyptian
1868 – 1932

 

Oh mother, how does the sky look? And what is light and what is the moon?
About their beauty you speak, but I don’t see any of it.
Is this world darkness upon infinite darkness?
Oh mother, give me your hand and perhaps boredom will leave me.
I walk with fear of tripping, at day or dusk.
I walk unguided, whether the path is long or short.
I walk with trepidation lest I encounter a sudden danger
and the earth to me is all the same, the flat and the potholed.
My cane is my vision. Can you imagine vision so solid?
Children run and play and frolic and there’s no problem for them in that.
But I am blind and sitting at home, in place
God is kind to me and He alleviates my distress.

With Pure Virtue’s Hand

Aisha Taymur
Egyptian
1840 – 1902

 

With pure virtue’s hand I guard the might of my hijāb
and with faultless self-shielding, among my peers I rise
With my thoughts taking fire and my gift for sharp critique
I have brought my poet’s skills to new and perfect highs
I composed poetry expressing an assemblage:
before me, women sheltered, most noble, esteemed, wise
I uttered my verses just as light and playful speech
yet the eloquence of books and logic I much prize
Mahdī’s daughter, Laylā—these are my choice models
as with innate acuity my best thoughts I poetize
How superb these ladies are! A noble weave indeed
in women and in maidens the men do recognize
Given precious pearls of mind, a poet like Khansa’
wanders rocky paths and for a brother, frantic, cries
From the brow of my notebooks I fashioned my mirror
and of ink’s jet-black traces I created my dyes
How often my fingertip adorns my paper’s cheeks
with script’s downy touch or the skin of my youth’s sighs
The candles of my intellect sent their brilliance far,
as the scent of my words perfumed dear ones’ garden skies
Women of great splendor wrapped in shawls of logic fine:
and their envy my presence or my absence defies
In sentiment’s assembly my tresses I undid:
those of goodly lineage their symbols will surmise
The arts of my eloquence, my mind I protected:
talisman dear, hijab’s amulet: danger denies
My literature and my learning did me no harm
save in making me the finest flower of minds wise
Solitary bower, scarf’s knot, are no affliction
nor my gown’s cut nor proud and strong guarded paradise
My bashfulness, no blockade to keep me from the heights
nor could the veil’s lowering o’er my ringlets disguise
the wager’s arena though the horsemen’s ambitions
from the hardships of the race suffered demise
No! my might is my repose, my knightly prowess lies
in the beauty of my striving: finest goals I prize
Not to mention a secret whose essence is sheltered
though word spread far to strangers of its rarity and size
Like musk it is sealed in the drawers of treasuries:
but the fragrance of its sweetness spreads in saffron sighs
Or like the seas as they embraced hidden gemlike pearls:
when the hands of seekers touch, the touch will paralyze
Desiring to obtain and to have those lovely pearls,
what troubling trials these divers brave, deeds that sense defies!
World-renowned amber agreed to give pearls protection:
its nature is recited in every book one buys
So I touch my fire to the wick in the lamp of skills
granted me by holy God, gifts of the Giver Wise