Home Literature/Poetry Syllables and Iambs – A Poem from Egypt

Syllables and Iambs – A Poem from Egypt

Syllables and Iambs – A Poem from Egypt
The Poor Poet (German: Der arme Poet) is the best known and most popular painting by German painter Carl Spitzweg - Wikipedia

A room that only had room for him and no other, not even dreams or even angels or devils

Yasmine Hussein, a lecturer at the Department of English Language and Literature, Alexandria University, has translated the Arabic poem of Maysara Salah El-din, an Egyptian poet, playwright and translator
Maysara Salah El-din
Maysara Salah El-din
Maysara Salah El-din is an Egyptian poet, playwright and translator, with a publishing record that includes many poetry volumes, verse plays and musicals. He received several national and Arab awards. A number of his poems were translated into English, Italian and Spanish, and many of his plays were performed on stage. His translations include Kokoro, Barbara, Shuggie Bain and The Bell Jar. His poetry collection Secret Numbers (2010) was recently translated into Spanish and appeared in print in 2023.
Yasmine Hussein
Yasmine Hussein
Yasmine Hussein is a lecturer at the Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Arts, Alexandria University. She received her MA degree in 2014 and her PhD in 2019, both in poetry. Besides academia, she has been working as a freelance translator and simultaneous interpreter since 2006.

Syllables and Iambs

He lived in a very narrow room

That he could barely enter sideways

And slept with his feet against the door

A room that only had room for him and no other

Not even dreams

Or even angels

Or devils,

For that

He didn’t talk much

And when he wrote poetry

His poems were

Short… humped… and coarse!

With no one to understand them

Or think to foster them

He himself wasn’t keen for them to finish their education

Until one night Walt Whitman

Appeared to him,

Pulled his hair

And told him

What is this rubbish you write?

His eyes grew red

And he felt sorry for himself

For misfortune wasn’t going to be his lot

In both this life and the hereafter

He summoned his courage and said

Give me time, Walt

Till I compile my new poetry collection

Szymborska materialized to him

From the box of old books

Under his bed and said

Man up dude

Will you loiter until your next collection?


He wiped his eyes

To dry his tears

But they fell harder

He produced a green piece of paper

That had been wrapped around some stale bread

And held his pencil to sharpen it

But to do so had to bite on it

He started to write

And write

And write

The ceiling grew further

The bed under him grew wider

And the mattress became softer

The angels entered

Lighting candles

Illuminating the place


Out of the fissures in the wall came

Herds of deer

Galloping everywhere

And a glutted panther


Grew from the floor

A fan descended from the ceiling

And a waterfall burst forth

Satan also took heart

And entered

And started to whisper to him

But he wasn’t used to such whispering

He continued to write

And write

And write

And his eyes ran with tears


Until the blade fell from his hand

And blood spattered everywhere


And they didn’t begin to interrogate

The poem


Three days after …


old-books-with-candle-ii-skopelitis-konstantinos-2014-54b21146 Useum
Image Courtesy: Useum

أسباب وأوتاد

كان ساكن في أوضة ضيقة قوي

يا دوب يقدر يدخلها بالجنب

وينام فيها ورجليه ساندة ع الباب

أوضة ما تساعش حد غيره

ولا حتى الأحلام

ولا حتى الملايكة

ولا الشياطين،

علشان كدا

كان قليل الكلام قوي

وكان لما بيكتب شعر

قصايده بتطلع

قصيرة.. ومقتبة.. وخشنة

ومحدش يفهمها

ومحدش يفكر يتبناها

وهو كمان مكانش مهتم تكمل تعليمها

لحد ما في ليلة والت ويتمان

طلع له

وشده من شعره

وقال له

إيه العك اللي بتكتبه دا؟

عينيه احمرت

وصعبت عليه نفسه قوي

ما هو مش هايبقى

ولا دنيا ولا آخرة

استجمع شجاعته وقال له

استنى عليّا يا والت

لحد ما أجمع الديوان الجاي

شيمبوريسكا طلعت له

من صندوق الكتب القديمة

اللي تحت السرير وقالت له

استرجل شوية يا جدع إنت

إنت لسّه هاتستنى للديوان الجاي


مسح بإيده على عينيه

عشان ينشف دموعه


وطلّع ورقة لونها أخضر

تقريبا كان ملفوف بيها رغيف بايت

ومسك قلمه اللي عشان يبريه

كان مضطر يعضعضه بسنانه

ابتدى يكتب



وابتدى سقف الأوضة يعلى

والسرير يوسع من تحتيه

والمرتبة تبقى طرية

ابتدت الملايكة تخش

تولع شمع

وتنور المكان


طلع من شقوق الحيطة

أسراب من الغزلان

تتنطط في كل حتّة

وفهد مصاب بالتخمة

وأعشاب السافانا

نبتت م الأرض

ونزل م السقف مروحة

وانفجر شلال ميّة

الشيطان كمان اتشجع


وابتدى يوسوس له

وهو مش واخد ع الوسوسة

فضل يكتب



وعينيه بترغرغ بالدموع


لحد ما الموس وقع من إيده

والدم طرطش في كل حتّة


وما بدؤوش يحققوا

مع القصيدة

غير بعديها

بتلات تيام…


Also read: Influence of Literature: How it illuminated the Path of Human Existence





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