Three poems by Yasser Abdel Latif

by qisasukhra

These three poems by Yasser are from the collection جولة ليلية (Dar Merit, 2009) [Night Tour]. The first of these poems, Night Tour, has been translated by Youssef Rakha here. The alketaba.com website has recently brought out an excellent review of Yasser’s work and life in a “special file” with superb contributions by friends, contemporaries and young ‘uns. Yasser recently won the Sawiris Short-Story Prize for his collection يونس في احشاء الحوت (Kotob Khan, 2011) [Jonah in the Belly of the Whale] and an excellent new collection is forthcoming from the same publisher: في الإقامة والترحال: قصص وحكايات (Kotob Khan, 2014) [Settling Down and Setting Out: Stories and Tales].

Night Tour

Before the way to school,

The sickly child first learns

The way to the doctor’s,

The chemist’s beneath the clinic

With its brown cupboards

And young salesgirl done up in fashions from two decades back

Wrapping the bottles in logo-printed paper

That she unfurls from a great spool on a metal rod

And inscribes, in clear hand, the dosing regimen:

Those distant days,

You and mother descending to buy medicine—

Why then, at night,

Did the chemist’s shift at least

Four buildings out of place …?

There’s a diner on a street corner

Its steamed up windows offering

Cheap and tasty eats;

It seems so close, there as the road bends round…

You will put off eating there, night after night,

In thrall to the dictates of all-nighters and exhaustion,

And the day you make your mind up

A single stroke of a demon hand will have raised the whole place

From the map…

In the shadow zone of your city knowledge

Behind the street where as a kid you thought the world came to an end

An old signal post and the shade of an ancient traffic cop police a junction that you cross

One dewy night en route to drowsy lights

And there: a forgotten cabaret

The acts performed upon a narrow stage

The punters packed in two rows either side.

You’re a spectator; you’re a backstage hand:

Your point of view moves back and forth between the two,

From hints at raucous lives,

Promises of delights unending,

To where wellbeing counts less than a regret

As light as beer foam.

***

Rock and Roll

 

Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel

A rough blues fit for highways

Fine, too, for my room with its gloomy books and dust

Where beneath its wild rhythms

The cries of her desire might disappear.

Push PLAY

The music surges out

A train’s roar as it moves from tunnel to

Chasm

Unseen as yet but coming up, for sure…

From Los Angeles, California… The Doors!…

I loved her

And she loved my friend;

He turned her down,

She came to me.

We need half a litre of tequila

Drunk down without salt or lime,

We need rats to gnaw our limbs

We need to vanish.

With her on top of me, like debts inherited,

I take her

Quick

A fleeting pulse of love,

Leave her to mop up our glorious failure

With a sock lying on the bed.

The bedroom door don’t shut

I don’t love her no more

And the tape deck, Made In China it may be,

Does the job.

Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel

Morrison was fully complicit in our crime

And then there were plates, smeared with ketchup.

The sock soared out to the room’s far end

While outside, Dad

Calmly ate his lunch

That hot afternoon

In Summer 1997.

***

Romance

Tiny statuettes,

Palm-sized,

Cut-glass and gleaming marble,

Tumble from a high balcony

Onto the garden’s tiles.

The queen walks alone through the garden

Barefoot on the damp grass

Dressed in white down to the knees

And the moon turns the garden’s night to silvered day.

A black cat mewing like a siren,

Captive in the courtyard of a high tower

With walls as smooth as Fate.

Shall the mewl serve

To pick a hole in the walls of despair?

I dream of the cat as I try to pick a hole

In the walls of my sleep

To cross through to the other side…

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