“Celebrated Egyptian poet Iman Mersal, one of the most exciting voices in contemporary Arabic poetry, has shifted her attention — with two recent books — to prose. Now, after a translation of Simic’s ironic voice, and a prose book full of complicated feelings around being a mother, can we expect new shadows from both in Mersal’s coming poems?”
I sold my earrings at the gold store to buy a silver ring in
the market. I swapped that for old ink and a black notebook.
This was before I forgot my pages on the seat of a train
that was supposed to take me home. Whenever I arrived
in a city, it seemed my home was in a different one.
Olga says, without my having told her any of this, “Your
home is never really home until you sell it. Then you discover
all the things you could do with the garden and the big rooms—
as if seeing it through the eyes of a broker.
You’ve stored your nightmares in the attic and now you have to pack them in a
suitcase or two at best.” Olga goes silent then smiles suddenly,
like a queen among her subjects, there in the kitchen between
her coffee machine and a window with a view of flowers.
Olga’s husband wasn’t there to witness this regal
episode. Maybe this is why he still thinks the house will
be a loyal friend when he goes blind—a house whose
foundations will hold him steady and whose stairs, out
of mercy, will protect him from falls in the dark.
I’m looking for a key that always gets lost in the bottom of
my handbag, where neither Olga nor her husband can see me
drilling myself in reality so I can give up the idea of houses.
Every time you go back home with the dirt of the world
under your nails, you stuff everything you were able to carry
with you into its closets. But you refuse to define home as
the future of junk—a place where dead things were once
confused with hope. Let home be that place where you
never notice the bad lighting, let it be a wall whose cracks
keep growing until one day you take them for doors.
(translated from the Arabic by Robyn Creswell)