Two Poems by Al-Dawy Mohammed Al-Dawy

Grave of the Butterflies

By Al-Dawy Mohammed Al-Dawy

Translated by Enas El-Torky

Many years ago

I swallowed a butterfly while I was singing.

A butterfly flew into my throat, as butterflies fly toward fire.

My voice is not beautiful, and I do not know what attracted her.

I tried to expel her, like the whale expelled Jonas.

I planted a pumpkin for her on my windowsill,

and prayed a suitable prayer for her

but she did not come out.

Now, butterflies perch on my nose,

and, suddenly, on my head and hand and shoulders.

I am not worthy of their love,

Nor am I mystical enough to entice them to perch peacefully on my body.

They are visiting their sister, who dwells inside, by herself.  

I am her tombstone, I am the grave of a butterfly

that passed here once upon a song, and my throat tempted her to dwell within me.

She walked into me, unafraid of loneliness.

She calls out to them, and they answer the call:

Hey, every butterfly who passes by here, I am within, alone I dwell.

Your proximity comforts me. My sisters, if this man sings, hurry to his throat.

It is a habitable flute.

If you cannot, then dwell nearby us for a while; he and I are lonely.

So lonely!  


The Statue of Sugar

By Al-Dawy Mohammed Al-Dawy

Translated by Enas El-Torky

My father, the sugar man:

each of my brothers inherited a part of their bodies from him.

A part made of sugar.

You can see it when he undresses, white and appetizing.

When he is angry, a hot burning liquid.

When he is dying, a viscosity fixing the soul to the corners,

and it is tranquil, calmly rising upward.

As for me,

I am the Statue of Sugar.

That is how my father begot me.

A statue of pure sugar,

free of charge and lonely,

beset with flies,

as well as bees.

It breaks 

if you embrace it tightly,

breaks if you turn away from it,

or if you knock nearby

with a sudden dry knock.

My father loves me enormously,

and my brothers resent that.

They said, Let us throw him into the well; he will dissolve, and no one will sense a thing.

But they feared the taste of the water would change, exposing the matter.

They said, Let us cast him into a distant land, and no one will see the sugar amidst the white sand.

But the ants will expose the matter, too.

They said, Let him be loved by a woman, whom he will love back.

She will take a bite of him each night,

and he will wither,

like candles wither in shrines,

and he will die.

He is a statue of sugar, who will wither and die anyhow,

like the Mawlid doll, and the Mawlid horse, 

from storage, or nibbling.

A woman I loved came, and she loved me back,

and so she kissed me

a long, long kiss.

I became wet,

and trickled like honey on her lips,

and it was over,

it was all over.


Al-Dawy Mohammed Al-Dawy is a poet and playwright born in 1989 in Luxor, Egypt. He has published six collections of poetry and two plays, won a number of Egyptian and Arab literary prizes, and works as a lecturer of modern Arabic literature at Minya University.

Enas El-Torky was born in Cairo, Egypt. She has worked as a lecturer in the department of English language and literature, ASU, and published several translations.  Her work was shortlisted for the ArabLit Story Prize in 2019.