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A Monkey at the Window

Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi

I

The small boy, playing in bed
while his wounded mother cooks,
is throwing little words and sounds
out of the window.

She smiles
(the whole world lights up)
he chatters excitedly - What can he see?

There's a monkey at the window -
behind the door!
But he is falling
into darkness.
And though he never raises a cry
he holds up his claws - this dark
stormy
boy.

II

She never taught him how to cry, only how to sing.
Happy in herself - just as she wished to be -
she taught him endless space and vastness,
and she calls him: Open-hearted.

Behind him, a mountain of metaphors,
in front, a river, a mouthful of night,
and a train of caravans calling him away.
(Where is that thread
that fire
the skill?)

III

Running - down an alleyway
he splashes cooking oil all over his shorts, this boy!

He wets himself
with laughter
running through Eternity -
through this alleyway
this pack of dogs,
the conspiracies of fate!

IV

The solid front door remembers the hand that made it -
You are the key -
and the creak of the universe – it's your sole
secret.
You lean your dreams and future against it.
For its sake you endure the woodworms
gnawing through your heart,
the reek of damp,
the hammering of enemies and relatives.
(Long is the absence of light
that paints things awake -
Long is the presence of paint!)

You come home exhausted - from wherever you’ve been,
the wind at your side - just as you wished,
toyed with by traumas.

Once he made necklaces from seashells,
colouring them with his own fairytales,
once he made friends with strange frogs
- and all the while she’s watching him
from behind the door /from out the window
(when she runs to pick him up,
he will not raise
a cry!)

V

In the forest the lonely one knows all the voices
beckoned by the eyes of loved ones
their songs are luring her
with their tbender fingers
and her own translucent solitude.
She sits in silence
close to every thing
brewing tea,
stirring the porridge.

In the garden
of a strange home, her home,
she welcomes the pots and pans
to the sounds of morning.
Scrubbing everything, in its proper place,
one eye on the radio
that calls her to those distant sands,
the desert.
But her colour flows like a river
so she can sing….
And that boy?
………. ………….
In a green forest
or a red forest
or a desert,
now who calls him to Eternity?

Breathless

Your heart thumps -
as if she were already
at your door.

Or - as if expecting her -
all the birds in the midday sky
arrive to clamor at your window.

… … … … … … … … … … …

An age of patience.
A forest of fluttering.

.......................

Song

Facing down wind in a dust-storm,
wrapped up in his cloak
and wearing a hat that can’t make him vanish -

this skinny man
scans the horizon,
gathering - but not quite yet - flowers
until the moment you meet

(… but stuck in this narrow alleyway
among mountains of rubbish
he longs to lift up his beak
unfurl his wings
and take flight…)

.................................

Orchards

I

Orchards surround his homes;
there, translucent moonlight falls
on tranquil streams
forming mirrors of each pool.
And now this honest tavern owner
has asked me to taste the fruits of truth!

That first night, we sang together
and, even though he misread me
and I misunderstood his invitation,
in the end, we shattered every mirror,
and found ourselves in a warm embrace.

II

Free the treasure from the fruit in plain light.
Free the secret from the shadow,
free tenderness from shame,
set free your self.
Pour your self out - flow,
so we can be at peace together.

Here is a branch, drifting on an aimless wave:
water seeps through its shoots
like tears,
while the keening wind whispers its desires,
knowing now the essence of its muffled secrets.

Here are shafts of light, shattered,
here are caves crumbling in your fists:
never hide your self.

The way you open the night for passers-by.
The way you close the window.

III

The cruel silence of shattered glass,
thick with little, daily things,
that circling, parch your speech.
Open your heart. Awaken your mind.
You are in flux,
your dull husk blind
to the light of your self.
Revelation is a dream.
Strip your self bare.
Ecstasy awaits you.

Translated by Hafiz Kheir and Sarah Maguire

Poet Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi is one of the leading poets writing in Arabic today. He has gained a wide audience in his native Sudan for his intensely imaginative appraoch to poetry and for the delicacy and emotional frankness of his lyrics. Saddiq was born in 1969 and grew up in Omdurman, Khartoum, where he still lives. His first poetry collection, Songs of Solitude, was published in 1996 (Second Edition 1999). He also published The Sultan's Labyrinth( 1996) and The Far Reaches of the Screen... (1999 & 2000). One of the six poets taking part in the PTC's World Poets' Tour in October 2005, Saddiq received a rapturous response from audiences in the UK. In March 2006 returned to the UK and gave a moving reading at the Poetry Cafe, as part of their occasional series 'In Town Tonight' featuring important international poets visiting London. 'Poem of the Nile' was recently published in The London Review of Books, one of the rare occasions the LRB has published poetry translated from Arabic, and the first time they've featured the work of an African poet. This is a real indication of Saddiq's growing status as an important international poet.

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