Safaa Fathy’s ‘I Would Like to Say’

“I would like to say” was published in Safaa Fathy’s PEN-longlisted collection Revolution Goes Through Walls, co-translated by the author and Pierre Joris. It appears here with permission:

You can also find Fathy at a Zoom discussion later today — 3 p.m. EDT, 8 p.m. BST, 9 p.m. Cairo — with poet-translator Mona Kareem. The event is titled “Saved From the Waters.”

I would like to say

By Safaa Fathy

Translated by Safaa Fathy and Pierre Joris

I don’t know the road to paradise … that my tongue, the people, and that man sitting contemplating the railway lines in a deep meditation nobody will ever know, existed. My house existed–in a place I am still seeking. It wasn’t in this village where I witnessed other children being born on the same blood-stained mattress I was born on in the same room to which the midwife regularly came, when she went away with the bit and took away your tongue. I saw myself searching for that old mattress stained with the blood of all those who had already come into the world so there would be another child round here. I saw myself not looking for a house but making the search for a house my way. So much blood dried like rust as each cut of the scalpel breached my skin, each cut of the scalpel piercing me, as I lay deadened, anesthetized. I would have loved the time of the anesthesia to lead me to the day you are no more, a day you can calculate for 50 dollars on the net.

I would like to say
I write about what I lost, about my vanished blood, about my laughter frozen into a mask, about this young girl who was chased away because she sighed next to the wheat dunes, that stuffed the young girls’ mouths with secrets, about this girl who was and is no more, about another one I saw spinning under the ceiling of the empty living room, her dress on fire, she calls to her master to save her, and standing naked in front of all those men. I say: I want neither father nor mother, nor to have them put on my road, or slipped into my story. Without them, I remain, and in spite of them all, I am:

I don’t know the road to paradise

I didn’t save you from hell

Sharia, that void, didn’t strike me,

I will not go to the one who has gone and will inevitably return

I wrote lines, licked the drops from the face

I said: she is of those whose past bears the present

She dashed along the wide avenue trying to cross

Like me, you also are a traveller

Without coyness, you come bearing that light,

Or is it this myth that kills us Shoot!

Kill, ash-dark bird!

Fall to earth on your feathers

That a wind blowing from the Sahara scatters

Sand dunes, purple light

That you cross from where you are not, This Sahara, our home.

There, two poles.

The coming will not come

Visiting rather

He is your guest

Suddenly shy when he sets foot,

Vanishes enchanted

To where your awakening is

You, the sublime Magus

Tell me, where you keep your remains

Where can I find what leads me to them

You, the Thing, the Non-being

When they appeared, fire had covered the light

I write on your whereabouts

To meditate on you,

To envision


Your shadow,

You, sublime creature

Be, a little, that I may see you

Cairo, imaginary date; written unthinkingly 31-11-2013