Islam Nawwar is a poet and physician in Cairo:
Excerpt from “Don’t Say That My Son Is Walking in Heaven”
By Islam Nawwar
Translated by Phoebe Bay Carter
From page to page, empty
And the page is empty
I curse him and walk away
In empty time and empty space
The two shake hands before me
While my neck, lined with scars,
Can no longer bear to have other hands
Entwining around it
Having nothing but my determination to curse the emptiness and walk away
I tremble in the emptiness
A one-sided coin
And the tourist snapping a selfie
Beside the carved stone
Looks at the big skeleton of my fish
Tossed down beside my rickety boat
Its flesh eaten by sharks.
And on this rural road packed with gravel
The tourist screamed, “Oh my God, the skeleton of a shark!”
The wine barrel Faust carried from the cave
Reminds me of all the wine barrels stacked in rows
Jostling against in each other
Carried to the mosque.
Faust passed by, a tired old man
In his boat, sailing across the mosque floor,
And everyone – not excluding our insulted God – passed by, tired old men
Everyone in a rickety boat at anchor
In the skeleton of a fish whose flesh was eaten by sharks
And I write a poem on a slab of marble about voyages
That never should have happened,
So please shut up.
Where shall I put these convolutions inside my skull that I write with:
Between la ilaha ila Allah and long live Egypt
Or between the drops of semen ejaculated on my bedroom rug?
These convolutions which on which
A massive crowd of words I did not live slide uncaringly
And the family is filth that sticks to the back.
Blessed are the new barbarians who do not need to strike a match to set fire to memory,
In a giant leap towards voluntary extinction
I really love pizza
Especially chicken shawarma pizza
And sausage fatayer too.
I often imagine myself as a dirty mouse
I’ll be scampering between the round windows in a swiss cheese triangle
When I’ll be summoned by the demon
Lord of mice, lice, and bedbugs
To gnaw him a round talisman on a closed door
My ultimate dream is for it to be a pizza talisman
Indeed, this is my dream both as mouse and man
I don’t actually know which species of vertebrates I belong to
And I’m still surprised by the highly specific classification of my identity
On my ID card, where they wrote:
Male, Muslim, single.
I also don’t know which species the shark belongs to.
Poor shark teeth
Like a mouse running away from poison
Killed here by Martin Luther’s emaciation
And there by Gandhi’s potbelly.
God is not a mouse
Because a mouse exists
Maybe he is a dirty mouse caught in the trap of your greatest fear
And maybe you would betray the love of your life if they threatened to release him to eagerly gnaw at your face.
The existent mouse gnawing at your face is certainly greater than any non-existent metaphysical God.
Islam Nawwar, a poet and physician from Cairo, his first poetry collection Don’t Say That My Son is Walking in Heaven in 2019, and the second, Carmina Burana at Cairo Metro Radio Station, in 2020.