‘So That We Won’t Appear as a Scar on the World’s Brow’

This poem, “So That We Won’t Appear as a Scar on the World’s Brow ,” comes from Ala’a Hasanin‘s debut collection يخرج مرتجفاً من أعماقه (He Comes Out of His Depths, Shivering):

Hasanin, an Egyptian poet and writer, has been published in Al-Ahram and Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, as well as several other literary and cultural publications. Her first poetry collection, He Comes Out of His Depths, Shivering (يخرج مرتجفاً من أعماقه), was published in 2018. Ala’a can be found on Twitter at @Alaa__Hasanin and she blogs at alaahasanin1996.blogspot.com.

The work was also published in a slightly different form on Al-Ahram; translator Ibrahim Sharif has relied on the version in her published collection.

So That We Won’t Appear as a Scar on the World’s Brow

By Ala’a Hasanin

Translated by Ibrahim Sharif

A moment please,
World
give us a minute
to wash the blood from our faces
to color the blue on our hands and feet
to search in the mounds of rubble
for stylish clothes
to rearrange our hair
so we can make it easier for the news agencies
to prove to the entire world
that we are perfectly fine
and that people should pay attention
to black holes,
and dry seasons
and the endangered species of whales
instead of making such a fuss
just because a small town
has been crossed off the map

A moment please,
World
give us a few minutes
to put makeup on our bloodied faces
to breathe souls into our crucified corpses
our corpses that are hanging from the lampposts
as a result of the explosions,
to look for our amputated hands
and stick them hastily on our bodies
so that the world won’t have to waste
its precious minutes
on condemnations and denunciations for our sake

A moment,
World
so we can hide our immigrants under our beds
so we can return our refugee children to our wombs
so we can release our tents into space like balloons
so we can ask our neighbors
who are so kind
our Arab brethren
to hide our tragedy
our home cookware
our ragged clothes
in their luxurious cupboards
for minutes
just a few minutes
so that fashionable Hollywood actresses
won’t have to take boastful photos
with our children,
children of the third world,
while leaving such a noticeable distance
between themselves
and our bodies
skinny and dirty
so that we can hide in our mothers’ laps, and so our mothers can also hide in their mothers’ laps
therefore
we have to disappear a little bit
so the world can take its pictures laughing
so we won’t appear as a scar on the world’s brow,
a dirty stain on its collar
all stylish and made-up
so the world won’t have to take a long time
choosing the right angle for the photo
that would make its features
less ugly
so we won’t disturb your mornings
with the news of our ordinary and repetitive
deaths

we must go quietly to our doomsday
our miseries must vanish
like soap bubbles in the air
so that you
World
can appear laughing
in all your photos
without worrying
that our daughters
might lean out of your eye sockets
bloodied, weeping and grieved,
or that one of our children
piled behind the curtain
would carelessly run out
chasing a bug or a wild cat
and thus
sadly
would appear in all his ugliness
before the camera
ruining for the stylish world
its party.

About the translator: Ibrahim Sharif, occasional blogger and translator, is from Libya, and a Tolstoy fanatic.

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