A poem by Ibrahim Elsayed

by qisasukhra

A translation of an unpublished poem by Ibrahim Elsayed. Translations of some poems from his previous collection أحد عشر كلبا (Merit, 2014) [Eleven Dogs] can be found here.



Childhood, a graveyard for teeth



After the crime the next shift,

the one you know is coming:

Life lived in constant wakefulness, waiting for it.


Once (at least) your senses doze          you notice afterwards something has changed.

Blame your senses and train them again. Again,

sharpen your senses with chemicals, a blue dose

but every time fail to recall

the secret word you called in sleep

to save you from fear


Fear, which doesn’t kill the deed,

the constant threat of exposure.

              Chemical                               Mineral

between the two          a tree


The city’s impure pleasures are medals on the walls of your life.


Any change there meaning of necessity some change here. And endless shapes:

House of Horror mirrors housed in Eighties funfairs.

Eighties Horror

Black Holes            Star Wars

where childhood’s a graveyard for teeth.

The confusion of waking:

sounds you don’t hear in dream

slowly manifesting          and I still

can’t hear them clearly


Sunlight reflects on salt shards

the cattle train switches tracks and clears

the way before us

I am in a train

a line of cows beside me

yawning their way to the new

mechanised slaughterhouse.


Thus I pictured God: a massive ear hooked to millions of nuclear reactors running 24-hrs a day each one

the size of a sun.

Aged six, from reading a simplified science book and watching VHS tapes on satellites

I knew how data and sound got about,

about signals and receiving them.

I lost my faith: a side effect

of cycling through plastic and paper,


the city’s impure pleasures.

                         Chemical                               Mineral

between the two             a tree of crimes


Instant of making the wrong decision

followed by a regret

never done