Lock-in Summer of Lit: Ghareeb Iskander’s ‘A Letter to Adil’

This lock-in Monday, as part of our ongoing series of stay-at-home literature (for those who are still at home, and those who aren’t), a short poem:

A Letter to Adil


By Ghareeb Iskander

Translated from the Arabic by Hassan Abdulrazzak


From Libreshot.

My loneliness has become like me

Its steps are lazy

eyes feeble

hands disabled

mouth mute

Like the silence of the cities

in these days.

I am sitting down now

Close to one of your old photos

Like a disciple sharing a light with a blind master

I share the memory with your absence

I make excuses with the shadow depicted

By the lilac that died years ago

While I am in the garden,

That has become a carnival through imagination

fueled by isolation.

It was not my fault or yours

It was not the fault of the disciple or his master

It was not the garden’s fault!

To contain all this silence

What can I do?

Except stay deadly silent

In this desert

which dwells in a dark room.


The disciple shares his mute words

With his absent master

Through the tongues of others,

 A talent they did not seek

Glowing like this evening

As I write my letter to you

The wandering spirit does not need

All this controversy.

A simple truth

Like these drops falling

Like a last light!

I was not dead

As the others thought

I was on a journey

watering the absence

Tasting it again

like an orphan child.

While he, the other

who truly left:

In dreams

Or reality,

his laughter reverberates

in the spirit’s rooms.

London 11 April 20


Other translations in our stay-at-home series:

Tareq Emam’s ‘The Tale of the Woman with One Eye,’ translated by Katherine Van de Vate

4 Poems by Jan Dost, translated by Mey Dost

Issa Hassan Al-Yasiri’s ‘A Primitive Prayer for Uruk,’ translated by Ghareeb Iskander, with thanks to Hassan Abdulrazzak

Zakaria Tamer’s ‘The Flower,’ tr. Marilyn Hacker

Lock-in Limited Release: Naguib Mahfouz’s ‘The Man in the Picture’, tr. Karim Zidan

Ali el-Makk’s ‘Forty-One Minarets’, tr. Adil Babikir

‘Eyes Shut’ by Rami Tawil, tr. Nashwa Gowanlock

Bushra Fadil’s ‘Phosphorus at the Bottom of a Well.’ tr. Mustafa Adam

Belal Fadl’s 2007 satireInto the Tunnel,” tr. Nariman Youssef

‘A Street in the Pandemic’ & Other Poems by Jawdat Fakhreddine, tr. Huda Fakhreddine


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