Poems by Sayed Gouda

Translated into English by the author

 

 

Jasmine Seller

 

i am a jasmine seller

i get up in the morning with the birds

my eyes hug daylight

my heart sips the scent of life

i see a line of ants on the ground

i throw a cube of sugar to them

i leave a piece of bread

And a handful of rice

On the threshold of my door

Provision for the morning birds

i leave with no worry,

Secure

i carry the jasmine garlands

i move among cars

i sell a few

i hurry to the sea shore

To lovers

i pass by them

i adorn their necks

i sell a few

i sit on the pavement of the city

Waiting for the passers-by

i sell a few

And go my way

In the evening, i return to my room

On the roof of an old house

Satisfied with my little provision

i sleep on my side

i pillow my palm and whisper:

‘To You i submit my soul;

To You i entrust my affair;

To You i turn my face;

And in You i take refuge.’

i sleep, my soul pleased

With the little, and fulfilled

i get up at dawn in search

Of a cube of sugar

A piece of bread

A handful of rice

i am…

A jasmine seller.

 

12 November 2011

 

 

 

Balcony of Poetry

 

There are clouds on the horizon, faraway

They gather tears from the traveller’s glances

For the rain of meaning to fall

From his steps, they detect the way

To the maiden’s home

Light commits suicide in the funeral of the heart

‘I am! I am!’

I hear the senior one say

And the nurseling scream:

‘I want more!

I am the last of the prophets!

I am the universal and others are useless!’

 

O night!

In you, a blind leads a blind

And he, who lost hearing, explains to the deaf

How a crow sings

And how nightingales say: ‘Brilliant!’

In you, I stay awake with my predecessors

On the shelves of poetry

They listen to me and I listen to them.

 

I breathe salt

And keep silent

When I see words

On the roads at midnight

Like homeless whores

I stretch my palm

For the birds to eat

I whisper to the wind:

O wind! Sister of my soul!

To you I sing not to them

And to them

Is what I wrote to them:

Take away what you wish

Trail in the silk of ornamented words

I do not have what you request

The only robe I have I stretched on the balcony at my home

It was never meant for dancing

Take away what you wish

And let me stay awake with my predecessors

Let me hang my heart on the balcony of poetry

And lie, joyful,

On a small shelf

Here among them!       

 

29 September 2010

 

 

 

Doors

 

I knock on the doors of her city

I open them door by door and see

Some other doors, closed.

 

21/12/2009

 

 

 

Boundary

 

At the boundary between river and sea

Fish stop on both sides, lover or beloved.

Each looks in the other’s eyes

Loves the other’s colour

Cannot swim into the other’s world

Cannot be but lover or beloved

At the boundary between river and sea.

 

4 am - 25/1/2010

 

 

 

Nets

 

Every morning

I cast my nets in the river

 

Every evening

I collect them

 

I return to my hut

Carrying the smell of water

 

I return to my hut

Dreaming of fish!

 

7/4/2006

 

 

 

I See Myself

 

And when life said to me:

I see myself slaughtering you

I bowed my head to Heaven

And said in my heart to her:

Do as you are commanded!

 

00:30 - 14 July 2010

 

 

 

Night Hymn

 

This is the encounter of those who look at the sky

And ask the stars:

“Where is the road?”

The encounter of the travellers of no belongings

Hope is their belonging.

The heart is the compass of the bewildered

To see

Where the seas pour the salt of their hearts.

Time shrinks in your hands,

When a hymn ascends to the sky

Life wakes to the silence of its prayer.

I will peel off the skin of my soul

And lie in the peace of innocent people,

Who trust heaven and its justice.

I’ll sleep between your hands like a child,

I’ll wake up like a giant,

If you place a bouquet on my forehead,

And sit near me for an hour or two

To sprinkle on me the fragrance of Robert Frost,

I pour some drops from Rumi’s wine.

We spin like two seagulls of no seas

We fall… like exhausted light

All the universe spins in the pupils of our eyes.

The orbit of the beloved is circles

In its kingdom, the heart

Is a full moon dancing with darkness.

I’ll pour my soul in you like distilled water

So drink me

And be happy with our encounter.

This is the encounter of those who trust heaven…

And its justice.

 

26 August 2010

 

 

 

Night Star

 

O star of the night!

God of the night loves you

He, who stays awake the whole night,

Loves you

He, who closes his eyelids

And dreams of your rays

Shine in his eyes,

Loves you

A sleepy bird, enjoying

The company of your light till dawn,

Loves you

A road, bored of loneliness and darkness,

Loves you

And this heart of mine,

That opens a door for you to enter

To illuminate your light

And leave no space in it

For darkness,

Loves you

O star of the night!

 

6/1/2010

 

 

Night Train

 

A train calls me,

Travelling in the night

To the countries of those who have travelled.

It calls me,

Knowing that since I was a child

I loved the night,

I spent it awake,

And did not dare to part with it.

Everything in the night calls me:

The wolf’s howl in a faraway mountain

A bus motor

Getting ready to start its journey,

A fleeting image of a car on the road

Longing for a date,

And spirits roaming the night.

The night is bored of the day’s noise

And incompetence

The day is bored of the sun

The light commits suicide

On the sky’s windows

The footsteps ask the road sand

Where will the travel end?

The circus wheels are still turning

In spite of the sleeping lights.

From afar,

I hear the train’s whistle

I hear the wolf’s howl

I’ll empty my cup

And catch the train…

Like a child.

 

11:30 PM 5/2/2010

 

 

 

To You What You Wish

 

To you what you wish from the sky

The wind is your home

The clouds are the call of your dream

Wherever you fly

They hurry to you

Fly north or south

You’re free in the kingdom just

As God has wanted you to be

With me, you are.

With you, I know there is a reason for me

And God is more just than my mistrust

Fly away from my madness if you want

Or perch on a shrub

Or on a balcony of a palm tree

Or on my palm and peck

The eyes’ longing for light

The fire’s shiver in a winter’s night

I made you my solitude

And in the sky I became your feathers

Spread wings of joy

And if the horizon is too small for you,

If it tires you out,

Remember my heart,

Wherein your nest is.

 

20/5/2010

 

 

 

Rain and Rose

 

Every evening when the rain falls

It comes to you like a child on a festival’s eve

Full of wishes, waiting

Carrying on his palms

The lightness of clouds

The tenderness of the moon

A gift to you, rose of the orchard.

It glides on you like a dream, whispering:

How beautiful you are!

You gave my life a reason

To fall down

Open your thirsty petals

And say: I'm ready for you!

 

8/1/2010

 

 

 

O Fires!

 

You stand at the door gate,

Like a sparrow in the evening

Waiting for its morning’s partner to return.

I see in your eyes the waiting of grass for the rain

That travels from Allah’s sky to the virgin earth.

I see you at the door gate,

Waiting for my heart to enter

Quite,

For flowers are asleep in their pots,

Time is a mean lantern on the road.

My soul sleeps on the stairs of the beloved,

Not departing or arriving,

Not straying or returning.

A cat comes

Licks the sorrows of my heart;

Cloaks itself with darkness,

And nothing I see but two green flames.

I collect wood of longing

And kindle fires in my heart

To grow like the magus fire.

I feed it with wood on which I lie:

O fire! be hungry, consume me.

In me is what you need of wood

In you, I am if I perish.

I change the skin of my heart every day

To feel my burning every day

To return the residue of my longing’s cinder

To ember every day.

If only the flood did not come on time this year;

If only you, fires, were bigger than the world’s water;

If only the universe were quiet except for your sizzle

In the silent nights

That Listen to the beats of your heart;

O fires!

If only you had not cooled down

Like the fire of others!

 

12 September 2010

 

 

 

Wave

 

Everyday at dawn,

Seagulls call me

I follow them

I tame the proud sea

And print on the lips of the waves

A star's kiss to the virgin darkness

I sleep on the carpet of waves

Like a prophet

I collect the universe in my eyes

And become a blue wave.

 

Everyday at dawn

Seagulls call me

I follow them!

 

20/6/2006

 

 

 

Penelope, a Circle of Love

 

She said that I would be the only outcast

For years, I will lose the way home

In vain, I would blow wind in my sails

And would come to him

A stranger on a shore of emptiness

He would collect in my bag

Winds from all the corners

And blow the wind in my sails

I would fight the waves of devils

And sail on a wave of flame

To offer him a goat, our ransom

To return to our families

Waiting on the blazing shore of their longing.

 

Everyday I dream that I return,

Stretch my bow that beats the strong men,

Clean my yard from the evildoers,

Empty the longing of my long nights,

On her lips

And pour into her ears

Some holy words.

 

She is Penelope

The soul’s joy in salvation

When the circles are complete:

The circle of love

When it turns into worship

The circle of eternity

When the final beam departs

The circle of death

And the circle of resurrection

For her, the journey of the soul begins

For her, it ends.

 

She is Penelope

A Ka’ba of pride when pride bows down

Humble, like a lover to his beloved;

A brook of milk,

And branches of light and perfume

In whose shade, the nightingales sing.

 

She is Penelope

Like a prophet’s intercession,

A reward to him,

Who is lost in her love.

Everyday I dream that I return

In spite of Heaven telling me

That I will be the only outcast!

 

20/9/2006

 

 

 

The Old House

 

There used to be some broken steps,

In the house long ago

I played on them when I was small

How often I slid on the banister in innocent play

There used to be cracks on the wall

Like an old woman’s face

Laughing with her naughty grandchildren.

 

There used to be hearts, arrows,

Lovers’ initials amorously embracing each other

Like wings of seagulls crossing the sea of longing

Here, the people of love used to live

And I…

Used to live here.

 

I used to spend the evenings with my friends

Loitering at the house gate

Courting girls with sweet words

When they passed us by

Illuminating the alleys of our district.

 

I used to spend the night awake

Angels of light were filling

The cups of Heaven with longing––

Longing as infinite as Heaven.

I was hearing in my solitude

Lovers’ prayers in their yearning

‘The Night Falls’... *

‘O Cup Companions’... *

‘For the Sake of Your Eyes’... *

For her,

Sweet is my life in longing

And sweet is passing-away for her!

We are the people of love

Fused in longing.

The butterfly melts in her love

Love is ablaze from her death!

 

My house entrance used to be here

And here used to be an old doorknob

Darkened from the tenants’ sweat,

From the warmth of their dreams.

And the cracks on the walls

Were like an old woman’s face

Laughing with her grandchildren

And here used to be our broken steps.

 

Where is our house, dad?

Said my small child

The key of my old house

Dangling on his chest!

 

* Songs by the Egyptian legendary singer Oum Kulthum.

 

16/11/2006

 

 

 

You Were Always There

 

You were always there

Listening to me

When I whispered

With a prayer in my heart

And cried in longing in the silence of the night

You were always there

With my tears

You would water the fields of longing in my heart

And rain your forgiveness

In times of dryness and thirst.

 

Yes

You were always there

I fall

You lift me up

I die

You resurrect me

I go astray

You look at me

I catch a glimpse from your light––guidance,

You were always there.

 

And today is a day for prayer

And harvest

Today is a day for crying

Or singing

How could you forsake me?

My goddess,

If it is your wrath,

Then doomed I am!

 

20/5/2007

 

 

 

At the End of the Night

 

Maybe the one who came scurrying

At the end of the night

To knock on our door, humble,

Begging for a piece of bread;

A mouthful of water;

And a woollen shawl

To protect himself from the biting of cold

Was none but a jinni

Carrying in his pocket

The spell of our coming curse.

 

Maybe the one who came

At the end of the night

Was a windstorm

Coming to warn us of birds

That would carry us

On wings that we do not see

To a faraway land

Faraway

In which the present ones are absent

The absent are present

And the bewildered cry at its door.

 

Maybe the one who came

At the end of the night

Was none but him

Came to laugh at my pride

Came to announce that soon

I would roam the streets alone

To knock on the stranger's door

Begging for a piece of bread;

A mouthful of water;

And a woollen shawl

On one of the winter's nights.

 

Maybe the one who came to us

-In spite of disguise-

Was me!

 

29/5/2007

 

 

 

My Great Grandfather

 

My great grandfather

Orders me not to stay awake late

Not to loiter at the street corner

Waiting for ‘Donya’

The beauty of the district

Passing by me

I get drunk from her scent.

 

My great grandfather

Orders me not to peep at her

When, on the roof of her house,

With her soft hands

She stretches a clothesline

To hang her laundry

She sits, relaxed

Exposing her legs

Absent-minded, singing:

‘Fire! Fire!

Your love is fire!’

 

To my great grandfather

I’m not the favourite one

But I always come to him

I kiss his right hand.

In silence, I sit between his hands,

A child,

I don’t dare to look in his eyes

I ask for candy

He gives me some

I complain about the kids of our lane

He keeps his silence

It thunders in my heart:

No justice today!

Today, the scale broke

And the snake ate the sparrow

And my great grandfather’s status

No longer has authority

Nothing remained today

But ‘Donya’

The beauty of the district

On the roof of her house singing:

‘Fire! Fire!

Your love is fire!’

Nothing today but

A noble’s sorrow

Learning from a prophet’s sorrow

Who bemoans his lack of power

He hears the god of the house saying:

‘You are not dear to us!’

Tears flood his eyes

And fire blazes on!

And fire blazes on!

 

08/10/2007

16/10/2007

 

 

 

Just Like Before

 

When I came home in the evening,

The house was a well,

A dwelling for the wind,

That is chained and humble.

Nothing but silence, echoes,

My grandfather's portrait

Hanging on the wall, fragile

From a robe weary of the crucifier

And the crucified.

My grandfather, I saw him no more

Kids in the neighbourhood say I am an orphan

For one evening, my grandfather died.

 

Tonight, alone at the bar

That I may drink images of yesterday

In the cup

And forget

That I may find guidance in the cup

Or find solace.

Is a bottle of wine enough for me

To forget my great grandfather

Even though in the company of the club dancer?

 

A flame sets the woods of my heart on fire

Telling me

That his absence is a game of hide-and-seek

He will remerge from a corner in the street

With open arms

And say: 'Come to me! Come to me!'

I will throw myself in his arms

And cry

Just like before

And sleep in peace

One evening

Just like before!

 

1/11/2007

 

 

 

Under the Cross of Spartacus

 

They crucified him at dawn,

Before sunrise

His soul was fluttering among the clouds.

They left him days and days,

An example

To revolutionaries.

 

Every day at noon

On our way to lunch

We see him crucified.

A year passed

Yet, his blood is still trickling.

Every day, a drop of blood trickles in the sand

In thunderous silence.

 

Every day at noon

With a loaf of bread

We hurry towards our shackles

At the labour site

In the mountain of slaves

We look up at him

We might see humiliation in his eyes

To know that we have survived

A severe hardship

We see him looking from high at us

Smiling

Victory laughs

In the twinkle of his tear

As though

He had never died

Nor was he crucified

As though

It's us on the cross

Tortured

By our humility

And tortured

By his… smile!

 

7/1/2008

 

 

 

The Thing

 

Something here

Dimly lit

Calling me

Enchanted, I walk for it

With heavy steps

Glassy eyes

A thousand clusters around me

And no one to fill my cup

Bored of revolving

No house in sight, no stone

Where are the garments of pilgrimage

Did I really wear the pilgrimage garments?

Or did I forget?

As I forgot to say a prayer today

A prayer of those who know their illiteracy

A prayer of those who don’t know their literacy

And they never know

The typhoon, no doubt, is coming to the city

To uproot the trees

Break the heart of my window

And break me

I got used to my defeats

Because I got used to life

She got used to me

Like our eyes getting used to darkness

When the rays of light are suddenly cut

I got used to life

The typhoon will go in two days

I’ll get up, collect the broken glass of my window

Go out to the city to buy bread

Milk, some fruit, and a sheet of glass

And search in people’s eyes for something

Dimly lit

Calling me

Enchanted, I walk for it

 

2/9/2008

 

 

 

Here is the Square

To the martyrs of 25 January Revolution

 

Here is the Square

And the liberation

The early afternoon is our date

We get out of our tombs

And roam the streets of al-Mahrusa1

The looted

Whose hands crucified

On a tower of fraud

God willing, she is protected

By the voice of the Muezzin2 at Tahrir Square3

And the bells of the churches

Bringing the Quran and the Bible together, embracing each other

The Nile flows behind them

Protecting the purity of their steps

Their chastity

From the evil eyes

As the chanting to its rhythm goes:

“Long Live the Crescent and the Cross!”4

Today

Egypt says at the Square:

“Where is the martyrs’ present to me

On my birthday?!”

 

Here is the Square

The birth

The liberation

And the history

Ahmose5 crosses the Square, smiling

No Hyksos6

No infiltrator

No spy7

Would rule Egypt after today

And the Square, adorned with the spirits of girls and boys,

Cries out loud, trembling:

“The People Wants to Topple the Regime!8

The People Wants to Topple the President!

And the People wants to avenge the martyrs’ death

And let them know that their country

Has accepted their present!”

 

Here is the Square, martyrs, it remember you

Its stones

And the pavements of its streets remember you

For one day your blood trickled down their cheeks!

The morning breeze

And the night cold at the Square remember you

And the justice of Allah, martyrs, remembers you

And this nation,

In spite of the cracking scale,9

In spite of the bailiffs’ slowdown

In spite of the guards’ conspiracy,

Remembers you!

 

10 July 2011

 

 

1 al-Mahrusa (The Saved One) is a nick name of Egypt.

2 The caller for prayer in Islam.

3 Liberation Square where the revolution took place.

4 This is the slogan the Muslim and the Christian Egyptians chanted during the 1919 revolution.

5 Ahmose e is the military commander who liberated Egypt from the Hyksos, founder of the 18th. Dynasty. He ruled from 1550 to 1525 BC.

6 They invaded Egypt and ruled it from the 15th. Dynasty to the 17th. Dynasty.

7 During and after the revolution, people said that Mubarak was a spy on Egypt.

8 These are the slogans chanted by the Egyptians during the revolution.

9 The deliberate slow procedures in bringing those who killed the martyrs during the revolution was explained as a conspiracy from the military council to pardon them.

 

 

 

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