One day wisdom will possess me

Today we move from Khaled Mattawa to one of the poets he translates: the Egyptian writer Iman Mersal (1966-). This eerily lovely poem is just one of many that’s lingered with me since I checked her collection out from the library a week ago.



“Sometimes Wisdom Possesses Me”

The light is self-obsessed
on the ceiling, in corners, on the table.
Pleasure has brought them to the edge of sleep.
Of course this is not my voice.
Someone is singing
behind the black curtain I lean on for support.

If I look down
I will see worms flee the floor
and climb my nakedness.
I will not pay attention to how I look
so that they don’t either.

The men talk of the nation’s future,
the wives help the lady of the house,
the cat sits to a feast of garbage
and the more than one spider on the ceiling
make no fuss.

It seems the family’s children liked me.
After I gave them a paper boat
I failed to convince them
that the copper tub they filled with water
is not a sea.

“Then a heavy silence prevailed.”
Those Bedouins
knew early on that words fly
and cannot be weighed.

And for other reasons
I did not hear a revolutionary talk
except to defend his old revolution
to new silent listeners.
Prophets are quiet by necessity
as they get closer
to the one who sent them.
The difficulty was not in keeping their mouths shut,
in where to place their hands
when they fall quiet.

One day wisdom will possess me
and I will not go to the party.
I will have to date the onset of my freedom
with the moment
I became no longer indebted to your ears.


from These are Not Oranges, My Love